Bruce Potts casts an eye over five rifle scopes that will do the job without breaking the bank.
Every month there seems to be a new addition to the long line of optics available to the rifle shooter. Be it vermin, foxes, or deer, every aspect, style, model and technological gizmo for rifle scopes has made its way into gunshops to entice shooters.
I love scopes — well, anything optical really, but even I am bamboozled by the sheer volume of models and incredible price difference of scopes these days. Basic rimfire or air rifle scopes can be bought for £50, but the top stalking scopes command up to £2,500, and long-range target scopes can reach the £3,500 mark.
I’ve chosen five mid-priced scopes for stalking priced between £450 to £600 to see what my money could buy. Glass made in Japan or Eastern Europe has noticeably better optical quality, with better low-light performance, clarity and, most important, reliability in all weather conditions.
Some major manufacturers have realised they have almost priced themselves out of the market and have therefore looked east for a cheaper alternative while retaining their own design and build quality ethos.
Zeiss Terra 4-12x50mm, £499
Zeiss has offered value models of its premium products before in its Duralyt range. The Terra model is a redesigned scope with fewer features, which keeps the cost down, and is now made in Japan.
The scope has a 1in tube diameter but with a good 4-12x power magnification range coupled with a 50mm objective lens. This allows a good range of magnification for close or longer-range shots, and the 50mm objective lens allows enough light in for dawn and dusk shooting. the lenses are all coated with the MC anti-reflective application of German design, which certainly contributes to the bright and higher-contrast image from the Terra scope.
In fact, the edge-to-edge clarity is good with this scope, and Japanese optics have always been of a high standard.
Its 1in tube makes the Terra a lighter- weight scope at 496g and is still trim enough not to look out of place on a small stalking rifle. to make things more simple, the elevation and windage adjustments are one click, representing ¼in movement at 100 yards. these are precision-made so that they are reliable in even tough handling conditions. Usually, German or Austrian scopes have metric adjustments so imperial makes it more universal.
To keep things simple and the cost low, the terra has no illumination of the reticule, with only one reticule choice offered, this being of Z-plex design.
The savings are peripheral, but money can be seen in the reliability and good lenses.
Visit Zeiss online or call 01223 401522
Yukon Jaeger 3-12x56mm, £429
Made in Belarus, the Yukon Jaeger is built to last and represents excellent value for money. Due to low labour costs, the Jaeger scope packs in more features than some other options and still keep costs down without compromising performance.
It’s a big scope at 680g and 357mm long, but that’s because it has 30mm tube diameter with added illumination controls. It has a big easy-to-control magnification ring and an illuminated reticule system with a stylish scalloped objective lens profile which is designed specifically for front-mount night vision devices for fox control.
A magnification range of 3-12x power as standard coupled with the large 56mm objective lens gives bright images at all power settings. The lenses are very good, giving good clarity and contrast.
The field of view is good, too, at 12m to 3m at 100m at the 3x and 12x power settings, but looks wider due to the big eyepiece, and its rugged construction makes it totally fog, water and shock proof — it’s built to last!
The Jaeger’s ¼in adjustment turrets are tactile and have an extremely handy resettable turret feature, which means the turrets can be lifted and rotated to the zero mark after zeroing, providing a reference point from which to adjust.
There are four reticules available and all are illuminated, which is a nice bonus considering that you also get good optics at this price. There are seven intensity settings with off positions between each, so it is fast to turn off and on, and has a night-vision setting.
Available from Thomas Jacks, telephone 01789 264100
Nightforce SHV 3-12x56mm SHV, £599
Nightforce is another excellent scope manufacturer that offers premium optics for all sorts of shooting disciplines, but it too has scaled back with the new SHV scope. These come with a 30mm tube but only one reticule choice and no illumination or parallax adjustment. However, at £599 you still get Nightforce quality optics and reliability made in Japan.
A one-piece aluminium 30mm tube is used and designed for maximum light-gathering properties and practical zoom range with an objective lens of 56mm and a power range of 3-12x power. The field of view is also good at 37.1ft on 3x mag and 9.3ft on 12x power, making it wide enough on low magnification for a close shot and a concentrated shot at 12x mag. At 14.8in long and 720g, it is quite long and deceptively the heaviest on test, but gives a sense of durability and resilience to inevitable knocks and scratches when out stalking.
Reticule adjustments for elevation and windage are again 1⁄4in per click at 100 yards with a maximum adjustment for both elevation and windage of 50in. I particularly like the reticule, which is the International Hunting Reticule, and in the second focal plane and the main aiming point is a floating cross-hair that quickly centres the eye and aim.
The other parts of the reticule are bold 3, 6 and 9 o’clock stadia with see-through upper pointed sections.
The lenses on the SHV are manufactured in Japan and, being fully multi-coated to all surfaces, have a good light transmission, sharpness and contrast to the image.
Available from Sportsman Gun Centre tel 01392 354854
Meopta Meopro 4-12x50mm, £563
Meopta is from the Czech Republic and produces good, no-nonsense scopes with great optics, but they often get overlooked in favour of better-known brands. Meopta offers European optical quality at Japanese prices.
The Meopro range is aimed at the cost- conscious market, all having a 1in tube and made from aluminium for strength and lightness. The 4-12x power gives a good range of useful shooting opportunities, whether woodlands or on the hill, and the 50mm objective lens allows in plenty of light and can be mounted lower than a 56mm scope.
Meopta always had good lenses, and its MeoBright lens multi-coatings make a difference at low light. There is a noticeable sharpness and clarity with defined edge-to- edge definition that makes a deer “pop out” of background foliage. This is because individual lens components are meticulously ground and polished in-house and precisely matched for superior performance. The lenses are then coated with a MeoShield coating that protects the exposed surfaces from scratches and debris, while the internal mechanism is made to eliminate backlash and withstand heavy recoil. Again there’s ¼in adjustment per click for elevation and windage, and with the Meopta each click is audible and well-defined.
There are three choices of reticule: I had the Z-Plex Reticule with its medium-weight posts and fine cross-hairs that give it a universal shooting appeal. Meopta always make good BDC (bullet drop compensating) reticules, where the extra stadia below the central cross- hairs relate to a drop in the bullet’s trajectory at ranges out to 500 yards on the highest magnification. There are also extra horizontal aim points for windage compensation.
Available from Viking Arms, tel 01423 780810.
Weaver Classic 4-16x42mm, £452
Weaver was the all-American scope when I was a lad, and gave a good all-round performance in a stylish, practical and lightweight scope. Now the optics are Japanese-made with multi-coated surfaces to maximise light transmission and eliminate internal reflections and distortions. The exterior surfaces have a scratch-resistant surface, too.
I had the Classic V16 range that features a magnification of 4-16x power — the largest range of all the scopes — which makes the Weaver a real dual-purpose scope for vermin and deer. The objective lens is smaller at 42mm, so some sacrifice to light gathering is evident,but the image was crisp and sharp at all magnifications with no chromatic aberrations or distortions.
At 13.9in long and weighing 476g, its combination of 42mm objective lens (parallax adjustable) and 1in tube diameter means it mounts low to a rifle, which gives a proper eye-to-scope alignment. The ¼in turret adjustments are standard with good, sturdy clicks and a maximum adjustment of 30in, and the field of view at 100 yards is 26.8in at 4x and 6.8in at 16x. Eye relief is 3.1in at all magnifications. The more I used it the more I liked it, as that extra magnification was handy on longer-range shots coupled with the parallax adjustment, the only scope to have this feature. I could keep the image in perfect focus at any magnification and range setting from 10 to infinity yards.
Available from Edgar Brothers, tel 01625 660670
Final verdict on rifle scopes under £600
It’s hard to choose any one of the rifle scopes here because they all have their own idiosyncrasies and, though priced in the mid-range, will offer any shooter what he or she requires.
The Weaver proved excellent optically for its size and the parallax adjustment allowed use for close and long range, which is handy.
The Meopta had old-world European optics that showed in the clean, punchy image, and the BDC reticule is useful.
The Yukon, too, was impressive with super-clear images and a good low-light capability, coupled with an illuminated reticule, so it is really a dual deer-come- foxing tool at low light.
That leaves the old favourites Nightforce and Zeiss. The Nightforce SHV offers all you need from a premium scope at realistic prices with a great reticule, build-quality and superb sharp optics. Although the Zeiss Terra has the fewest features, its price and superb optics, reliability and overall performance will endear it to shooters, as you are getting the Zeiss name for a fraction of the price.