Breaking News: Today at SHOT Show Leica is announcing a new precision rifle scope that features the PRB reticle I helped design. I’ve had to keep this quiet for over a year, so I’m excited to finally be able to share all the details!
The Leica PRS 5-30×56 Scope
The new scope is called the Leica PRS 5-30x56i, and it was designed from the ground up for long-range shooting. It packs all the must-have features for both precision rifle competitions and long-range hunting:
- First Focal Plane (FFP) design provides consistent holdover and windage corrections at any magnification
- Over 100 MOA (32 mils) of elevation adjustment travel
- Extremely rugged, with all metal parts for repeatable and accurate adjustments and return to zero
- Huge 6x zoom range with magnification from 5x to 30x
- Turrets have well-defined tactile clicks
- Zero Stop
- Legendary optical clarity & performance that Leica is known for (i.e. >90% high light transmission, superior contrast & color fidelity, and long eye relief)
The elevation turret has 10 mils per revolution, which allows you to take a 6.5 Creedmoor over 1000 yards without leaving the first revolution! With over 100 MOA (32 mils) of elevation adjustment travel, the scope is easily capable of shots beyond 1 mile! It features a visible and tactile rev indicator to keep you aware of what revolution your on when you really extend to extreme long range.
The Leica PRS 5-30x56i also packs a few more nice-to-have features, including a throw lever for quickly adjusting your magnification (which can be removed). You can also zero the turrets without any tools, and the zero stop can be adjusted with an included tool that is conveniently stored inside the turret.
MSRP is $2,699, and is available for pre-order at EuroOptic.com. It has a 34mm tube diameter, and weighs around 36 ounces. For more details on the scope, check out Leica’s brochure with all of their new products for 2020 or here is the owner’s manual with all the technical details or you can visit Leica’s product page.
Honestly, I’ve always felt like Leica had figured out the hard part, with the ability to turn out world-class glass that is in a league only Swarovski, Zeiss, Schmidt and Bender, and maybe a couple of others can claim. After all, Leica is a German optics company that has been a leader in glass for cameras and lenses for 150 years (founded in 1869)! But Leica’s riflescopes were always tailored to hunters, meaning they didn’t provide enough adjustment range, reticle choices were poor, and the turrets weren’t designed to be cranked on all day and still have a perfect zero when dialed back down. Until now!
The PRB Reticle
I created a conceptual design for a reticle that Leica decided to offer in this new PRS 5-30×56 scope. I will say upfront that I’m not making anything on the scopes or the reticle, so this isn’t a shameless plug because I get some kind of kickback. I’m simply excited about what this new reticle has to offer shooters, and wanted to share some of that with you guys.
Highlights of Reticle Features
- 0.2 mil hash marks on primary wind axis and elevation axis for fine adjustments. Over 90% of the top long-range shooters told me they prefer to dial their elevation correction and hold their wind correction, and having 0.2 mil hash marks makes it easy to hold with 0.1 mil of precision, meaning you’re able to get the most from a precision rifle platform.
- Clear, unobstructed view in the top 50% of the field of view to make it easy to spot impacts, read wind, or use for observation
- Open floating dot in the center makes it easy to get a perfect zero, and doesn’t cover up the most important part of the reticle
- Simple and unobtrusive hold-off grid that’s there if you need it, but not too busy or distracting. It also won’t obstruct the view enough that you could potentially miss spotting impacts. The simple design also shouldn’t intimidate newer shooters that haven’t ever used a gridded reticle. Most competitive shooters only use the Christmas tree hold-offs when they need to make quick shots and don’t have time to dial, so the hold-off grid is a secondary feature for over 90% of shooters, and when we use it we aren’t looking for “gnat’s ass precision.” That influenced the decisions on the grid design:
- Really fine marks are visible when you’re looking at them, but not when you are focusing on the primary axis. It’s also very unlikely that you’d miss seeing a bullet impact because it was hidden behind one of those marks.
- 0.5 mil hash marks on the hold-off grid (for both elevation and wind holds), meaning you’re never more than 0.25 mils from the nearest reference point.
- When holding 10 mils of elevation or more, the subtensions become twice as thick to help you see them at reduced magnification. Also once you get past 10 mils of elevation hold, 5 more mils of dot reference points appear on each side to provide additional wind holds.
- + mark is used every mil on odd wind holds (e.g. 1, 3), and × mark is used on even mils (e.g. 2, 4) to make it quicker to count/confirm your hold.
- To keep the reticle simple and uncluttered, every single dot of ink on the reticle had to fight its way into the design. If something wasn’t useful in real-world scenarios, it didn’t make the cut. That means there aren’t distracting features related to:
- Range estimation: I understand why they teach how to estimate range using your reticle in sniper school, but over the past 5-10 years the use of laser rangefinders has become widespread and virtually no shooters estimate range using their reticle in practical situations. In fact, for long range targets, your hit probability falls near 0% very quickly when milling targets for range estimation. (Read more about that here). You can still use this reticle to do range estimation, but there simply aren’t any distracting features added to make that “quicker,” since 99% of shooter will never use those features.
- Movers: Some reticles have features built-in to help with moving targets, but those are only valid for targets at a specific range. I’ve never been in a situation where the distance lined up to the targets I was actually engaging.
What One Of The Best Shooters In The Country Thinks
Leica asked if I knew any of the top-ranked precision rifle shooters that might be willing to try their new scope and the PRB reticle and provide some feedback, so I reached out to Austin Orgain. I don’t know Austin well, but I’ve been around him to enough to know that he is a VERY SERIOUS shooter – and he is a brutally honest guy that isn’t afraid to simply call it like he sees it. For context, Austin placed in the top 10 of both the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) AND the National Rifle League (NRL) in both 2018 AND 2019, which is an honor only one other shooter in the country was able to accomplish (Jon Pynch). Frankly, Austin is one of the best long-range shooters in the world, and it’d be hard for anyone to argue otherwise.
Austin is a straight shooter, and I knew he’d give candid feedback. Last month, he spent a couple of days behind the Leica PRS 5-30×56 scope with the PRB reticle, and here was his take:
“I really liked the reticle. The open circle for the center dot is perfect. I like how the tree portion of it is thin and somewhat out of the way, but still useable. With the 0.2 mil holds on both stadia, it’s going to be a very usable and versatile reticle.”– Austin Orgain, Finished Top 10 Overall In PRS & NRL in 2018 & 2019
The PRB Reticle Design
I originally designed the first iteration of this reticle in 2015. I was using a Schmidt & Bender PMII 5-25×56 DT scope on my match rifle at the time, and I wasn’t thrilled with their reticle options. I talked to a couple of industry pros about what it’d take to get plates made for a custom reticle design to use in those scopes. It turned out to be more complex and expensive than it was worth, but through that I did spend a lot of time thinking about what the ideal reticle might look like, including a complete mock-up of the design.
Then in 2018, a friend who works for Leica called me to get some input on what a good reticle design needed to have to be useful for precision rifle matches. I’d clearly prepared for that conversation more than he realized, and I unloaded on him. Towards the end of the conversation, I told him I could share a reticle design that had all of the features I’d mention, so he could see exactly what I was talking about … which sparked a conversation about Leica putting the reticle in a new scope they were working on. We iterated on the design together, and I also solicited feedback from Bobby Bellows and a few other shooters, and eventually the PRB reticle was born!
First, I believe a reticle is a tool – and it’s a critical tool when it comes to long range. In some scenarios, if a reticle doesn’t have the feature you need, you either can’t make the shot or at the very least your hit probability can go down dramatically. That’s why the reticle is one of the primary factors that causes some of the top precision rifle competitors to decide what scope they use. Things like optical clarity and other features that rookies tend to obsess over are clearly secondary to a reticle that has the features you need to get rounds on target in a variety of scenarios.
Several years ago, I read an article in The Economist that included a quote I still think about:
“In a recent survey, Microsoft found that most consumers use only 10% of the features offered in Microsoft Word. In other words, some 90% of this software is clutter that obscures the few features people actually want.”
I believe that concept applies to far more than software. It’s natural for something to become increasing complex over time, and advanced or niche features creep in to clutter and obscure the features most people actually use. That’s why my fundamental mindset with this reticle was to make every tiny black spec on the reticle fight its way into the design. This kept it simple, but just as capable as many of the more complex designs. If something wasn’t useful in real-world scenarios, it didn’t make the cut. If a feature could be smaller or less obtrusive and still be useful, it should be.
The Design Decisions
The PRB reticle is a tactical, mil-based reticle design with precise 0.2 mil hash marks on the primary wind axis and elevation axis. 0.2 mil hash marks makes it easy to hold with 0.1 mil of precision, meaning you’re able to get the most from a precision rifle platform. I’ve talked to multiple top 10 shooters over the years who’ve told me they absolutely refuse to use a reticle if it doesn’t have 0.2 mil hash marks. Many reticles only have 0.5 mil hash marks, but that can make it harder to have the precise, repeatable holds you need for first-round hits on small targets.
The PRB reticle provides a clear, unobstructed view in the top 50% of the field of the view to make it easier to read wind, spot impacts, or use for observation. It does have 1 mil of elevation hold above the aiming point, which helps draw your eye to the center and can also be useful if in a couple of niche scenarios.
The reticle has an open floating circle aiming point that makes it easy to get a perfect zero, and doesn’t cover up the most important part of the reticle. I’ve used reticles with simple cross hairs, a floating dot, and other configurations, and feel like the floating circle offers a lot of benefits. This floating circle design also provides reference points for 0.05 and 0.1 mils of wind holds (edge of the circle and start of the primary axis, respectively), while keeping the center uncluttered.
A Simple/Subtle Hold-Off Grid
The PRB reticle features a simple/subtle hold-off grid that provides the ability to hold both wind AND elevation, for those times where you don’t have time to dial or a stage prohibits dialing. Without a gridded reticle (also referred to as a Christmas tree or hold-off tree) you would end up just holding out in space, and that makes it tough to hit anything at distance. However, 90% of the top shooters prefer to dial elevation and hold wind when given enough time. I can say that with confidence, because I’ve personally surveyed the top-ranked precision rifle shooters in the country for the past several years and have asked that question directly. So the grid portion of the reticle is a secondary feature, and not the primary use case. However, many gridded reticles are very busy, which can be distracting and potentially obscure your view. If I only need the grid occasionally, then it better not keep me from spotting my impact – which is something I need to do on every shot.
The thickness and size of the marks on the grid were carefully chosen so they are visible when you’re looking at them, but when you are focusing on the primary axis you don’t even notice them. It’s also very unlikely that you’d miss seeing a bullet splash because it was hidden behind one of those marks.
When would I need a gridded reticle?
- There are stages in some rifle matches that explicitly require that shooters hold for both elevation AND wind, meaning you must engage multiple targets at various distances and cannot touch your turret once time starts. There are also stages with such tight time limits that you won’t get off all the shots if you try to dial for each target, so holding both elevation and wind can help maximize your score. I remember one stage at an Oklahoma match that gave shooters 15 seconds to engage 4 targets scattered from 300 to 800 yards (Thanks, Jim See). You simply don’t have time to dial for each distance, but you can accurately hold the adjustment if you have a gridded reticle with reference points for both elevation and wind holds away from the axis. In fact, one shooter cleaned the stage in 9 seconds!
- There can also be times that you don’t have time to dial while hunting. I’ve been coyote hunting and had 3 dogs come in at once. I could transition from one to another much more quickly by holding my elevation and wind. If I had tried to dial the elevation for each one, there is no way I could have got more than 1 or maybe 2 shots off before whoever remained escaped back into the brush.
- If you’re really extending your distance into extreme long range, you can sometimes get out to distances that require you to dial all of your elevation adjustment and then hold an additional amount of elevation. In these cases, a gridded reticle essentially adds to your total elevation adjustment range your system is capable of, so you aren’t limited by your equipment. (I’ve personally made first-round hits in competition out to 1.5 miles, where I dialed all 24 mils my scope had and then had to hold an additional 19 mils of elevation AND 4 mils of wind. Luckily I was using a gridded reticle, or there is no way I could have made that shot!)
The majority of shooters only hold elevation for quick shots, and in those cases we aren’t trying to hold “knat’s ass precision.” Stages with very tight time constraints typically have generous size targets. With this in mind, I decided the grid should have reference points every 0.5 mils. There are 0.2 mil increments on the primary elevation and windage axes to give you optimal precision for the majority of shots, but those quick hold-over shots are not the same use case. Having marks every 0.5 mils on the grid means you’re never more than 0.25 mils from a reference point and you can hold even more accurately than that. That is typically more than enough precision to get reliable hits and that 0.5 mil spacing helps minimize clutter.
Gridded reticles can be intimidating or distracting for new shooters or hunters. I admit they were for me for a long time, but once I eventually tried one it didn’t take long to see the merit. Now I feel limited if a reticle doesn’t have a hold-off grid. Hopefully, this simple/subtle grid is more approachable by those new guys and easier for them to adopt.
Another feature to help minimize clutter is instead of having reference points with a number beside them, in some places it simply uses a number as the reference point. So instead of having a dot or X to indicate where the 2 mil hold is with the number “2” as a label beside it, what if it just had a 2 where the mark should be? So if you were holding 2 mils of wind, you’d simply put the number 2 on the center of the target and send it. Things like this are minor, but are the types of things that can help minimize clutter without compromising functionality.
One more feature related to the Xmas tree grid is that the reticle has a small dot for 0.5 mil marks, and every 1.0 mil it has either a + or a ×. It uses + to indicate odd wind holds (e.g. 1 mil, 3 mils), and an × indicates even mils (e.g. 2, 4). My idea was that by simply turning it from a + to an ×, it might make it quicker to confirm your hold just before you pull the trigger, rather than have to count marks. If you’re wind hold is 2.1 mils, you can just remember your hold should be just past the × and let it fly.
Features For Reduced Magnification
The PRB is a fine reticle for precise long-range shooting, but the thickness and length of those lines were carefully selected so they’re still useful at reduced magnification. On some stages shooters might prefer to run at 10-12x magnification for a larger field of view to make it easier to find targets and/or speed up their target transitions. However, with some of the popular reticles the marks are too thin or small to differentiate at that lower magnification. So if you need precise holds, you have to reach up and dial up your magnification or run the stage with higher magnification than what you’d prefer. Not a problem with the PRB reticle. I was able to still differentiate the 0.2 mil wind holds at 9x magnification!
As you dial back the magnification, subtensions that are 10 mils or more from the center become twice as bold to make them easier to see at reduced magnification.
Also starting at 10 mils of elevation hold, you will see additional dots on each side of the Christmas tree that extend the wind holds another 5 mils in each direction. This allows the reticle to be useful in up to 20-30 mph winds. While many people won’t be shooting long range in those high winds, some do, and at least you wouldn’t ever be limited by your reticle if you needed to. However, because that is a niche scenario that most shooters won’t encounter, those extended wind holds are only marked every 1 mil, instead of 0.5 mils like the rest of the grid. Once again, I was trying to balance providing the tools a shooter needs, without adding unnecessary complexity.
At low magnification, the bolder subtensions ensure the reticle is still useful, and you can easily see your aiming point. Also, you can notice horizontal lines appear every 10 mils of elevation hold to help you quickly index and find the hold you need.
Shooters and hunters may prefer to run at minimum magnification to maximize their field of view and help them quickly find targets. If you accidentally bump a deer out of his bed, you don’t want to have to try to find it quickly through 30x of magnification! In those cases, they could dial back to 5x and turn on their illumination, even if they aren’t in low light conditions. That helps fine reticles like this be as useful and ideal at 5x as they are at 30x, because the illumination makes the crosshairs extremely high contrast. The primary elevation and wind axes light up, which naturally draws your eye to the center aiming point.
It turns out that it is difficult to illuminate a fine reticle. In fact, there was a point where Leica engineers came back to me and asked if they could make the lines just slightly thicker than I had originally spec’d. They were struggling to find a way to have it illuminate with how fine the subtensions were, or thought it could add significant cost to produce the reticle to my original specs. After some thought, I told them I thought it was more important for the reticle to match the thickness specs I’d suggested than it was for the reticle to be illuminated. Ultimately, illumination is a nice-to-have in a few scenarios, but I’d bet 99% of long-range shots are taken without the reticle illuminated. So I didn’t want a niche scenario to cause us to compromise on the primary use case, which was using this to engage targets at long distance at high magnification without the illumination on. That would have been “the tail wagging the dog,” from my perspective. But, here is the great news: the Leica engineers figured out a way to make it work! They found a way to keep the fine subtensions that I thought were ideal AND make it able to be illuminated. Leave it to German engineers to help us get the best of both worlds! 😉 Having a reticle with fine subtensions that can also be illuminated gives you the best of both worlds and can make the scope useful in virtually any situation.
The center aiming dot does not illuminate by design, which ensures the most important part of the reticle is clear, unobscured, and not “blown out” by too much illumination (a problem with some other reticles).
Finally, below is the detailed subtension diagram. There was serious thought put into every single number on there. Remember, my fundamental mindset with this reticle was to make every tiny black spec on the reticle fight its way into the design. This allowed the PRB reticle to be simple, but just as capable as many of the more complex designs. If something wasn’t useful in real-world scenarios, it didn’t make the cut. If a feature could be smaller or less obtrusive and still be useful, it should be.
Last month, I finally got to see the reticle in a scope for the first time. I admit that I was nervous to see if it matched up with what I had in my head, but I couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out!
NOTE: The PRB reticle design was for conceptual purposes only. I never performed any kind of clearance search or patentability search, and make no warranties or representations regarding any information provided regarding the reticle . I am in no way involved in the manufacture or sale of the scope, and I am not profiting from the reticle or scope. I do not have a business relationship with Leica, and it is Leica’s sole responsibility to determine whether or not the sale or manufacturing of the scope, including the reticle, violates any laws of the United States or the laws of any other country as may be applicable.