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Best Tactical Scopes – What The Pros Use

This post covers the scopes and reticles the best precision rifle shooters used in 2014. The data is based on a survey of the top 50 shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS). The PRS tracks how top competitors place in major rifle matches across the country. These are the major leagues of sniper-style competitions, with targets typically in the 300-1000 yard range. This is the 3rd year we’ve been able to collect this data. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are scroll to the bottom of this article.

Best Long-Range Tactical Scopes

Here is a breakdown of the most popular brands used by the top 50 shooters in 2014:

Most Popular Scopes

In this year’s survey, we also asked the shooters what specific model was topping their rifles. Here is a breakdown of the most popular models used by the shooters who finished the PRS season in the top 50.

Most Popular Long Range Scopes

Here is a breakdown of what scopes the guys who finished in the top 20 were using this year.

Scopes Used By The Top 20 Shooters

Schmidt and Bender scopes were still topping more rifles than any other this year. This probably comes as no shock. Although the design is now a decade old, the Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56 continues to be the king in the long-range scope world. This was proven once more in a 400+ hour data-driven scope field test I conducted recently focused on the best 18 scopes money can buy. Apparently, it took me 400 hours to figure out what most of these guys already knew! Although you may have to sell a kidney on the black market to be able to afford one … it might be worth it. The scope is near flawless. Don’t you really only need one kidney anyway?

Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25x56

Vortex continued to gain ground this year, with a 5% leap beyond last year, thanks to their new Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 scope. 10 shooters who finished in the top 50 nationwide were running a Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56, which was released just a couple months ago. I haven’t personally handled one for more than a couple minutes, but I’ve heard several guys say good things about them. Obviously several of the top shooters have confidence in them.

Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56

Bushnell also continued to expand its presence among the top 50 shooters this year. 10 shooters in the top 50 were using Bushnell Elite Tactical scopes. The Bushnell Elite Tactical XRS 4.5-30×50 was definitely the crowd favorite, with 9 out of 10 choosing that model. In fact, 1/3 of shooters who finished in the top 10 were running this scope. And another interesting fact: more shooters in the top 10 were using Bushnell scopes than any other brand. There were 4 Bushnell scopes in the top 10. Schmidt and Bender only had 3 scopes represented. That surprise anyone? My field test did show Bushnell packed a ton of performance for the price.

Bushnell Elite Tactical XRS 4.5-30x50

Once again, there were a few shooters using the popular US Optics ER-25 5-25×58. This scope was designed from the ground-up for extreme range, and has a few unique design features the others don’t. I highlight some of those in the field test. It is a quality piece of glass.

US Optics ER25 5-25x58mm

There were a couple shooters sporting the Kahles K 6-24×56. This scope did very well in the field test, and clearly provided a ton of bang for your buck. It is a compact scope, and the lightest weight among the 5 most popular scopes listed here (by a few ounces).

Kahles K 6-24x56

Reticles

The chart below shows which reticles the top 50 shooters were running in their tactical scopes. A reticle is such a personal choice, but there are a lot of great options.

Most Popular Scope Reticles

Every shooter running a Bushnell scope chose the G2DMR reticle, also commonly referred to as the GAP or G2 reticle. That isn’t a huge surprise, since it was designed by George Gardner specifically for this style of competition. George is President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision and an accomplished competitor … finishing in the top 25 once again this year. It’s a mil-based, Christmas-tree style hold-off reticle that provides the features you need while remaining uncluttered.

Bushnell G2DMR G2 GAP Scope Reticle

The most popular reticle for Schmidt and Bender scopes was the H2CMR, and there were a few shooters using the P4L Fine reticle and the MSR reticle. The P4L Fine reticle is an improved mildot design with fine lines that won’t obscure the target, a floating crosshair, and uncluttered design providing lots of room observation/spotting. The MSR reticle was developed by competitive long-range shooters, military snipers, and other professionals at FinnAccuracy. What’s interesting is none of those are hold-off reticles. There was only one shooter using a hold-off reticle in a Schmidt and Bender scope, and that was the classic Horus H59 reticle.

Schmidt and Bender H2CMR Scope Reticle Schmidt and Bender P4L Fine Fein Scope Reticle P4FL P4LF Schmidt and Bender MSR Scope Reticle

One additional note here is that FinnAccuracy’s MSR reticle is licensed to be used in scopes by Kahles, Schmidt and Bender, and Steiner. If you grouped all those together, there would be a total of 6 shooters in the top 50 using that reticle, which would make it tied for the 3rd most popular reticle among this group.

Among the Vortex scopes, the EBR-2 was the most popular reticle, which is their Christmas-tree style hold-off reticle. However, there were a few shooters also using the EBR-1 and EBR-3 reticles as well.

Vortex EBR-2B Scope Reticle Vortex EBR-1 Scope Reticle Vortex EBR-3 Scope Reticle

This chart shows what reticles were used by the shooters who ended up in the top 20:

Best Scope Reticles

When you just look at the top 20 finishers, the story isn’t too much different. The G2DMR (GAP) reticle remains the most popular, with 4 of the top 10 shooters selecting it as their reticle. The MSR reticle was used by 20% of the shooters who finished in the top 20. Although the EBR-3 reticle from Vortex was clearly the favorite among the top 50, when it comes to the top 20 there were slightly more EBR-1 reticles represented. Also, while there were twice as many S&B scopes with H2CMR reticles in the top 50 as those with P4L Fine reticles, they were represented equally among the top 20 shooters.

Hold-Off Reticles

I was anxious to see how many guys had moved over to hold-off reticles this year. It seems like there is a growing number of shooters using “Christmas tree” style reticles, which allow for quick hold-offs (instead of dialing for elevation adjustment). The diagram below illustrates what I mean by “Christmas tree” reticle. It is essentially a gridded reticle that allows you to hold for elevation and wind. Most people associate these with reticles by Horus Vision, but there are now several companies offering these types of reticles. I thought it’d be interesting to look at what percent of shooters were using these compared to more standard milling reticles.

Hold-Off Reticle Examples

Here is the percentage of shooters in the top 50 over the past 3 years who used a hold-off reticle.

Long Range Scope Reticle

Although it’s been up and down, more shooters were using a hold-off reticle this year than ever before. The gridded reticles still aren’t quite as popular as the standard milling reticles, but it may be surprising how many guys have started using them. While the format of PRS matches varies, many impose strict time limits or are scored in a way that promotes quick target engagement. Being able to hold for elevation and wind, instead of dialing for elevation, may shave off a few seconds and help make you more competitive. Some believe gridded reticles are distracting, but Todd Hodnett of Accuracy First (a well-respected long-range trainer) is a huge proponent of the Horus reticles and says most shooters get used to it very quickly. Todd says you really don’t even notice the grid after you’ve used it for a while, but it’s there when you need it.

In my field test of 18 high-end scopes, I did discovered some amount of turret calibration error or reticle cant in virtually all of the scopes (view results). Only 3 scopes turned in flawless results in both those areas, including the Kahles K 6-24×56 and US Optics ER-25 5-25×58 discussed above. Yet none of the scopes tested had any measurable amount of error in their reticles. That reminded me of something I had read in the 2014 issue of SNIPER magazine:

“Another potential problem is not knowing whether your scope tracks correctly. Holding is always more accurate than dialing. A friend with a doctorate in optics agrees with me on this. Quality reticles are CNC laser etched. In testing, the turret has been proven not to track perfectly all the time. If you have a scope that does track, it will continue to track, but the key is knowing whether your scope tracks in the first place. I have seen too many that do not track.” – Todd Hodnett

My independent tests seem to confirm exactly what Todd is saying here. Even these top-shelf tactical scopes can have a non-trivial amount of error in the turret adjustments. One option to that depressing news is avoiding turrets all together by using a hold-off reticle. I’m not trying to convince anyone they should convert to a hold-off reticle. I haven’t … yet. But this is an alternative solution to the problem of scopes not tracking, which is why I’m interested to watch how many of these experts are starting to choose into those styles of reticles. Here is a quick 1 minute intro video from Todd on this style of reticle:

 

Meet The Pros

2014 Precision Rifle Series LogoYou know NASCAR? Yes, I’m talking about the racing-cars-in-a-circle NASCAR. Before NASCAR, there were just a bunch of unaffiliated, regional car races. NASCAR brought structure by unifying those races, and created the idea of a season … and an overall champion. NASCAR identified the top races across the country (that were similar in nature), then combined results and ranked competitors. The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) is like NASCAR, but for rifle matches.

The PRS is a championship style point series race based on the best precision rifle matches nationwide. PRS matches are recognized as the major league of sniper-style rifle matches. At the end of each year, the scores from around 15 different national matches are evaluated and the top shooters are invited to compete head to head in the PRS Season Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the finale, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 50+ shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are also considered experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Francis Kuehl, Wade Stuteville, the GAP Team, the Surgeon Rifles Team, shooters from the US Army Marksmenship Unit, and many other world-class shooters. Thanks to Rich Emmons for allowing me to share this info. To find out more about the PRS, check out What Is The Precision Rifle Series?

Other “What The Pros Use” Articles

This post was one of a series of posts that look at the equipment the top PRS shooters use. Check out these other posts:

Enjoy this type of data-driven information? That’s what this website is all about. Sign-up to receive new posts via email.

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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46 comments

  1. Very nice! Looks like the vast majority were using mil based scopes again this year.

    • Yes sir. Probably over 90% once again.

      • It would be interesting to see the stats of how each places wrt the top 10 and top 20.

      • I might be confused on what you’re asking. Do you mean specifically which places each one got within the top 20?

      • How many of those MOA shooters made it into the top 10 and top 20?

      • I’m not sure if there were any MOA shooters actually. I had that question on the survey, but I must have configured the answers wrong because there was no data for the results. But, there were only a few reticles that could have been MOA. Over 90% were mil-based reticles, which follows the trends of previous years.

        That doesn’t mean MOA is inferior, just not as popular among these guys. There is absolutely no inherent advantage to either system. Here is a post that breaks down the differences: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2013/07/20/mil-vs-moa-an-objective-comparison/

      • It wasn’t all that long ago that most people were shooting Mark 4s, and NF NSX. Both in MOA. Only scopes easily available in mil were S&B and USO. Both were also available in MOA. Its very hard to beleive that so many shooters switched to mil if there was no reason to. Its also hard to beleive that there are so few MOA scopes making it to the finale when they still outnumber mil scopes by a wide margin, if there is no advantage.

      • I hear you. It’s hard to believe … but that doesn’t make it any less true. If you don’t believe me, here is what Bryan Litz, an expert among experts in this field, has to say:

        You can’t really go wrong with either (MIL or MOA). They’re both equally effective, it comes down to how well you know the system. If you’re comfortable with MOA, I wouldn’t recommend switching to MIL. I have a few MIL scopes but primarily because they’re on rifles used for military evaluation projects, and that community is now mostly converted to MILS, so when in Rome… So if you have a hunting buddy that you want to be on the same page with, that might be a factor. But for your own use, neither has an inherent advantage.” – Bryan Litz

        Ultimately, it is like asking “Which is better: liters or gallons?” or “Are miles or kilometers better?” The question really doesn’t even make sense. They are just different units of measure, and this same thing is true for MIL and MOA. Both are simply angular units of measure.

        Most of the world has standardized on the metric system, so MIL is a natural fit for those guys. The consumer market in the US is not standardized, but the US military market has … and they’ve also gone MIL. When the military standardizes on something, it suddenly becomes very popular (regardless of inherent merit). So lets run through an exercise. Lets say you are about to start a scope company. It is expensive to tool your production line for both MIL and MOA, and as a start-up you have to watch costs extremely close. You know the world outside the US is mostly MIL-based, the US military is MIL-based, and the US consumer market is mixed. So which are you going to pick?

        To compound that further, most companies (especially those making high-end optics like the ones features in this article) are hoping for a military contract. A few of these companies HAVE military contracts. You can’t imagine what that can do for a company … it is a game-changer. So it stands to reason that some of their products are designed with military customers in mind, and then marketed to civilians as well.

        This is all speculation though, and my own theory … although it seems to have the ring of truth. The facts are … most people are using MIL. I’ve used both, and there is absolutely no major advantage to either system.

      • For the type of shooting that Bryan does, he is correct. But remember, Bryan does not do PRS type shooting. He shoots matches that are shot at know distances (evenly divisible by 100) andt have generous time constraints. For that type of shooting, it doesn’t make any difference.

        I’m sorry, but many of your assumption are erroneous, particularly those about shooters in countries using the metric system. Even in countries that use the metric system, the majority of long range shooting is still done with MOA scopes. It was traditionally done that way because most inexpensive scopes came from the US. They have not changed from that because there has never been a need to, just as F-Class shooters have not changed over to mil in the US because they have no need to. In many of those countries, that is true even in tactical matches. Go and shoot a tactical match in Canada, and you will find that 95% of the people are still using MOA even though everyone under 40 grew up with the metric system. The reason is that, because of the restrictive gun laws and limited access to long distance ranges, those matches are shot on the same ranges they use for Palma and F-Class. The tactical matches look like F-Class matches, but with different targets, a mover and a few snap stages thrown in. But they are still only shooting at one distance at a time, its evenly divisible by 100, and they known the target size.

        The only kind of long range shooting where you see people predominantly using mil scopes (even in metric countries) is shooting that involves multiple distance engagements at oddball or unknown distances, under time pressure. Then you see a big switch to mil, just as you have seen in PRS type matches over the last decade. And like most the people shooting PRS, they learned on MOA scopes and SWITCHED to mil. That would not have happened if there was not advantage to switching for that type of shooting.

      • Have to agree to disagree. If there is an advantage, what is it? Ultimately, it’s just a unit of measure. The high-end optics are available in mil, so that’s what we use. I shot MOA until I bought a Schmidt and Bender scope … now I use MIL, because that’s all they supported in the reticle I liked. Please go ask around on some forums to see if you find the answer your looking for, but I’m through talking about it here.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  2. With this new data I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s dying to know how the HD Gen II stacks up! You’ve raised the info bar, and got me begging for more…

    • I hear you. I really wish I could’ve included one in the test. They just couldn’t swing it at the the time. Looks like a cool scope.

  3. Here’s the next scope you’ll need to throw in the mix! 😉

    https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/razar/#.VFAQRvnF-So

    • Thanks for sharing! It looks interesting. I find myself touching the mag ring a lot during a single stage. I start zoomed out (maybe 5-10x) for a wide field of view to help find the target and get aligned, then I dial in (maybe 15-25x) to “aim small.” It looks like this “leap-ahead technology” would allow you to perform that zoom with a push-button. This sounds quicker, but I’m sure there are trade-offs. You are adding lenses, so I’d expect optical quality to decrease. It might be a while before it replaces these scopes, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  4. Cal, I really enjoy all the information that you have compiled. Fantastic source of information. I just wanted to say thanks for all the hard work!

  5. Excellent insight, appreciate the info & your presentation. Was curious as to how the hold over reticles are compensating for various atmospheric condition changes, such as elevation, temp & barometer for thier long shots.

    • They’d adjust just like you would if you were dialing. I prefer to create a customized dope-card for the specific environment I will be in. I typically do this in the hotel the night before with the National Weather Service forecast pulled up. My plan B is that I always carry 3 dope cards on me. One is my normal ballistics (calculated with standard atmospherics in my area), then I carry one that is a 50 fps faster and another that is 50 fps slower. If I notice that the temp has dropped and I’m hitting low, I will swap to the slower one. If it heats up in the afternoon and I’m starting to hit high … I’ll swap to the faster one.

      But as far as dialing for elevation or holding for it … there is no difference. You might be getting a hold-off reticle confused with a ballistic reticle (aka BDC reticle). In a BDC reticle, you have predetermined marks that roughly correspond to different distances. Now this does cause a problem when atmospheric conditions change, which is why I HATE BDC reticles. Here is an excerpt from the Tactical Scopes field tests where I explain a little more detail about ballistic reticles and give a definition for what I refer to as a “tactical reticle.”

      Tactical Reticle: Any reticle with evenly spaced marks on both the vertical and horizontal axis.

      I completely made that definition up, but that seems to be the minimum requirements for a good long-range reticle. So simple crosshair or duplex reticles don’t fit that definition of a tactical reticle. Those don’t allow you to hold for wind. A BDC reticle (Bullet Drop Compensation) or ballistic reticle also don’t fit, because they don’t have evenly spaced lines (for example, in mil or MOA units). A BDC reticle (like the Zeiss Rapid Z, Nikon BDC, Swarovski BR, Leupold Boone & Crocket) attempts to give you hold-off points that roughly correlate to your rifle’s ballistics. In Optics Planet’s explanation of BDC reticles they actually say “Beware, these are not exact. There are too many variables in gun barrels, ammunition, temperature, elevation, humidity, etc. When sighted in for a hunt at 300 yards here, I was about 10 inches off …” While a BDC reticle might be great for a hunting scenario for quick, short range shots, it isn’t even close to the precision you need for consistent long-range hits.

      Tactical Reticle vs Ballistic Reticle

      Unlike a BDC reticle, a tactical/milling style reticle simply has evenly spaced marks to indicate MILS. So lets say you were taking a 600 yard shot, and your drop for that distance is 3.0 MILs … then you can either dial 3.0 MILs or hold for 3.0 MILs. It doesn’t really matter. If the temp raises 50 degrees and you’re also now 3,000 ft higher in elevation, then a ballistic engine might say your adjustment for that same 600 yard shot is now 2.8 MILs. You can either dial 2.8 MILs or hold for 2.8 MILs … it should result in the same exact point of impact.

      Hope this helps. I know this stuff can be confusing. Scope manufacturers and marketing companies certainly don’t make this any easier to understand.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  6. I’m surprised nobody has pointed out how skewed the assumptions are about reticles. Since Bushnell XRS made such an impressive jump in the Top 10/20, and the fact that you have only ONE choice of reticle with that scope, you end up with a large number of “Xmas Tree” reticles not by choice, but by default. I own the XRS. It is a great scope, but I certainly didn’t choose it for the reticle. I deal with the fact that I was handed the G2 reticle, I’d imagine others are also of that mindset. The XRS is quite simply just the best bang for the buck in the long range scope market, period. Nothing even comes close, IMO. There are far, far better scopes and at times I’m irritated at the inferior glass quality and lack of certain other features, but then I remind myself of the awesome quality of scope I got at a fraction of the price I’d pay with any other scope. If $$ was my limiting factor, I’d have half the quality of scope in another brand for the same $$ I paid for my XRS, and then I’d really be regretting something! So sure, its not the best glass, but it is for the money you pay.

    • Hey, Don. I appreciate you sharing your view, and I agree the Bushnell is an amazing value. I’m not sure these guys would agree with your view on the G2 reticle being a compromise, considering one of the guys who finished in the top 25 designed it specifically for these types of competitions. George Gardner of GA Precision helped Bushnell develop that reticle, and he along with the most of the rest of the GAP Precision team use it. I believe the GAP team ended up with five members finishing in the top 10.

      So while you’re entitled to your own opinion, I just wanted to say it doesn’t represent what these top shooters think.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • His point is still valid though. The fact of the matter is having only one ret option on a popular scope does lead to some bias data. All good though, thanks for article mate, I look forward to reading them each year.

    • Hey Don… I use a Bushnell ET3.5-21 DMR with a G2 reticle which is the same glass as the XRS and I noticed on my scope that the glass has a little haze when on the max 21x power… but the haze disappears when using the sunshade. In my opinion the G2 reticle is the best reticle for precision long range shooting… each their own.

  7. How about the sightron s111?

    • Nope. Not a single Sightron among this group. Lots of guys like them, but I’ve never seen them used at this level.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  8. I am looking at purchasing a new scope in a bit but I am having a hard time deciding. I want a S&B but I’d have to save longer for it. I have heard good things of the Vortex Gen 2 and some guys have even sold their S&B’s for them. Vortex’s warranty is also unbeatable.

    I know that you plan on doing another Scope field test for cheaper scopes than before. Would you consider including the Vortex 4.5-27 in that test while you’re testing other scopes? I realize it doesn’t fall into the price category you’re looking at, but it could be done as an update to the Expensive scopes field test.

    Thanks

    • Absolutely. If I ever test another batch of scopes, that one will be in there … even if I have to buy it with my own money! I wish I could have included it in the original test, but I didn’t want to delay the whole thing waiting on that one scope. But the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27, and the Tangent Theta 5-25×56 are the top two scopes that I’d like to test. I did put a ton of thought into the tests being completely repeatable, so that any future test results could be compared directly back to the original set. I’m not sure when I’ll do another batch, but if/when I do … you can count on those two being in the bunch, even if the rest of the scopes are for a different price point.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  9. Kris has a good point…when it comes to ranging targets at unknown distances it’s way easier to do it in ones head utilizing Milliradians… I can multiply any number by 1000 in a fraction of a second but ask me to multiply any number by 95.5 or by 87.3 or by 3438 and I’ll be cursing Minutes of Angle !!!

    Milliradian reticle distance estimation formulas are…
    Height of target in YARDS x 1000 div/by # of mills = distance to target in YARDS
    Height of target in METERS x 1000 div/by # of mills = distance to target in METERS

    In other words we can use the Height of target in (any measurement) x 1000 div/by # of mills = distance to target is in whatever measurement we used for the height of the target.

    With a Milliradian reitcle we can also calculate…
    Height of target in INCHES x 25.4 div/by # of mills = distance to target in METERS
    Height of target in INCHES x 27.77 div/by # of mills = distance to target in YARDS

    MOA reticle distance estimation formulas are….
    Height of target in INCHES x 95.5 div/by # of MOA = distance to target in YARDS
    Height of target in INCHES x 87.3 div/by # of MOA = distance to target in METERS
    Height of target in METERS x 3438 div/by # of MOA = distance in METERS
    Height of target in YARDS x 3438 div/by # of MOA = distance in YARDS

    We can also go about these formulas in the following way….
    Height of target in (whatever measurement) div/by # of (mills or moa) x 1000 or 3438etc = different s*** same pile 🙂

    Anyway we slice this cake nobody can say that it’s easier to divide by or multiply by 3438 than by 1000.
    Hence why Military around the world use Milliradians.

    • Okay, I see your point … but you made MOA harder to calculate than it really is. Check out the post below. It shows a much simpler method: Height of target in inches / # MOA x 100 = Distance in yards. Doesn’t get easier than that.

      http://precisionrifleblog.com/2013/07/20/mil-vs-moa-an-objective-comparison/

      Of course, the only situations where I’ve ever needed to mil a target for ranging were completely contrived, just to make a stage more difficult. In the real world (hunting or military), or even most competitions … 99% of us just use a rangefinder. It’s an essential tool to a long-range marksman. So this whole debate seems silly to me. I’m not saying you shouldn’t know how to do it this way.

      Here’s my analogy: In school, I learned to work out a lot of math problems by hand. That wasn’t a complete waste of time. More than most people, I really want to understand how/why things work (not just trust that they do). But honestly, I just use a calculator today. I never trust a business decision on math I did by hand. I pull out a calculator or put it in a spreadsheet. At one point, it was necessary to do all math by hand. We just have matured beyond that, and today we have tools like a calculator and Excel, which didn’t make knowing how to do it by hand useless … just far less necessary in real-world applications.

      Hope this makes sense. I don’t want to arm-wrestle over this, but at the same time want to put the debate in perspective.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Cal. you’re 100% right and I agree with you opinion about ranging. Being human I sometimes only look for things I want to see therefore I didn’t find/see the easy solution to using a moa reticle.

  10. Interested In A Vortex Scope

    Subject: Interested In A Vortex Scope (Excerpts from RimfireCentral.com Forum)

    I’m ordering a CZ 455 from my LGS to get into precision shooting and hopefully attend an Appleseed event this year. I’d like to use the gun to train and improve my marksmanship and potentially move to a larger caliber rifle as my skills increase. It’ll be a few weeks before the 455 gets in so I’ve got time to decide for sure what scope I’ll put on it. After talking with several people locally and at the gun range I’m leaning towards trying out a Vortex. Currently I’m looking at the Crossfire II 4-12×40 AO. I was interested in the Diamondback line but anything past the 2-7×35 Rimfire starts to get out of my price range for the time being.

    Just wanted to check and see if anyone has any feedback on this scope and/or recommendations as to what might be better for me. Please let me know if there’s anymore information I can provide to help out.

    […]

    since you mentioned you may be moving up at some point
    A little reading

    about 10 different posts

    http://precisionrifleblog.com/2014/10/24/best-tactical-scopes-what-the-pros-use/

    […]

  11. Why do you think S&B has gone down 11% over the last three years and between the two of them, Vortex and Bushnell have gone up 12%? Do you see that trend continuing in 2015 and if so why? Maybe your excellent field test showed people that the best is still the best, but maybe with enough skill you can do just fine with a little less than the top of the line.

    • Hey, Chris. “Maybe with enough skill you can do just fine with a little less than the top of the line.” Yep. Definitely the truth. I personally bought a S&B 5-25 out-of-pocket after that field test, and I LOVE it. But I’ll never claim it’s necessary or that it makes me a better shooter. I do enjoy shooting more when I’m using it (because it’s an exceptional scope, and I’ve handled a lot of great scopes … so I should know). I personally prefer the S&B and I’d bet most people would if they were all the same price … but they’re not. The S&B 5-25 price has climbed from $3k to $4k over the past couple years, and that may have something to do with it.

      Also, keep in mind that some (if not most) of these shooters are sponsored. That likely influences choices. I do want to say that I know some of these guys personally and they’re fierce competitors. You don’t get to the top 50 if you aren’t. The guys I know wouldn’t use a product if they thought it somehow handicapped their chances … even if the scope was free. They’re too competitive to do that. But, I bet the number of shooters sponsored by Bushnell and Vortex have gone up as the PRS has started receiving more publicity (like my annual series of blog posts). I’m not saying they aren’t world class scopes … they are. Great equipment … Not S&B 5-25 great, but not S&B 5-25 expensive either. I have to admit $4k on a scope is ridiculous. This is my only hobby, and I shoot a lot (probably shot 2000 rounds so far this year) … but ultimately the S&B 5-25 is a luxury item, not a need to have item. It’s still cheaper than a bass boat! The Bushnell gets you 90% there with all the must-have features for 1/3 of the price. … But the S&B 5-25 is awesome!!!

      Hope my ramblings make sense. If you have the discretionary income to get an S&B 5-25, you won’t be disappointed. If your budget is tight, don’t sweat it … it won’t make you hit more targets (probably). 😉

      Thanks,
      Cal

  12. Hello,

    I am starting in to this sport, here in Brazil is very hard and expensive to get those products to try it, so this blog is very helpful!
    When you tell Vortex HD GEN II there is two, one in Moa and another in MRAD, which one do you refer?

    Cheers and congrats for a Such nice blog.

    • Hey, Bruno. Thanks for the kind words about the website. I’m glad you’re finding it helpful. I’m just trying to help new people like you get into this sport that I’m so passionate about. It is a lot of fun!

      The MRAD (i.e. mil-based) version is more popular than MOA, but it really comes down to personal preference. There isn’t an inherent advantage to either system. I wrote a pretty definitive comparison of the two systems that you might check out: MIL vs MOA: An Objective Comparison. I bet that would help.

      Thanks again,
      Cal

      • Hey, Cal. If you were to do this test again today, where do you think the Vortex Gen II would place? As I look at he top PRS shooters, there sure are a lot of them running the Gen IIs. I think some of that can be attributed to the fact that S&B doesn’t sponsor too many shooters and Vortex does, but I hear a lot of really good things about this scope.

        Just curious.

        Thanks,

        Josh

      • Josh, I’m not sure where it would rank in relation to the tactical scope field test I did a few months ago. My wild guess would be somewhere between 5 and 12. It’d be hard to believe that it could top the Hensoldt, but I do think it’s a sizable improvement over the Gen I Razor.

        You’re probably right about sponsorships possibly attributing to the large number of Vortex scopes, but in the same breath … if they didn’t work well none of these guys would be using them. I personally prefer my Schmidt & Bender PMII DT 5-25×56 (I’m about to buy another one), but that doesn’t mean the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 isn’t a great scope.

        Oh, and it’s not that S&B doesn’t sponsor “too many shooters” … I actually think they sponsor exactly zero PRS shooters. I’m not sure those Germans even believe in marketing. You can’t even buy a Schmidt & Bender cap or shirt! Crazy Germans. 😉

        Thanks,
        Cal

  13. Cal:

    Are you contemplating another review of scopes now that the 2015 season is over??

    • I’ve definitely thought about it. I’ll be at SHOT Show in a couple weeks, and plan to look at scopes to see if there is another big batch of scopes that I’d be interested testing. I’d obviously really like to test the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56, Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 FFP, and Tangent Theta 5-25×56. Plus I know people would love for me to test some of the mid-priced scopes (maybe in the $800-1500 range), although there are a billion of those … so it may not be practical, and I’m not personally as interested in that price range. Ultimately I would like to help the entry-level shooter, and not everyone can afford a $1500 optic … so I’m torn on that idea.

      I’m also a little hesitant to do another scope test, because of the MASSIVE amount of work I know it’ll be. There have been a few testers contact me for more details on some of the tests, because they planned to try to replicate the tests on other scopes. But I’ve still yet to see anyone publish anything like this. My guess is they got half-way into it and realized how much work it was going to be, and bailed. Honestly, I almost quit myself half-way through … but I’m more stubborn than most! 😉

      All that to say that another scope test is one of the top candidates for projects I’m considering in 2016. I’m guessing that you’d vote for that. I appreciate you asking. That just tells me you found it really helpful. Is there any particular scope models you’d like for me to consider including?

      Thanks,
      Cal

  14. Yes, I’d also be interested in another scope test, and I’d say everything from 1500 $ and up. I’m particularly looking at that Tangent Theta 5-25. What a beast of a scope according to most. Only downside, other then price, is the long wait for it apparently. Precision Rifle Podcast just did an interview with Tangent Theta not to long ago, very impressive. Looks like a great Canadian company to support. Anyway, lookin forward to that.
    Also, do you have a stats article like this from last years PRS season?
    Thanks for the great effort.

    • Hey, John. I talked to the guys at Tangent Theta a lot while I was planning my scope test. They are REALLY sharp guys and provided a lot of valuable input on how to conduct the tests the most objective and error-free way possible. I actually talked to engineering teams from most of the optics companies, and several other optics industry experts, and the guys at Tangent Theta were impressive even compared to those other guys. I do think that Tangent Theta scope has the most potential to dethrone the Schmidt & Bender PMII 5-25×56 when it comes to overall performance. Now they’re both SUPER expensive, even compared to the other high-end scopes these guys are running … but the best things usually cost the most.

      And yeah, I did do this for the 2015 season. You can check that out here: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2015/10/18/best-tactical-scopes-and-reticles/

      You can always view the latest “What The Pros Use” posts here: http://precisionrifleblog.com/category/what-the-pros-use/

      Thanks,
      Cal