Laser rifle scopes on test
Here we test the the Burris, which is a 4-12×42 Laser scope; the Bushnell Yardage Pro 4-12×42, and a Zeiss 2.5-10×50 model from the Victory range, which is named the Diarange.
Bushnell Yardage Pro – £799
Despite its bulky look, the Bushnell Yardage Pro, with its 708g weight and 13in length, is actually no problem and no bulkier than some of the large varmint scopes. It fits easily to the rifle with an integral rail mounting system with Weaver-style mounting bases. The front end has a series of slots to cope with any recoil issues and the mount is attached to the rail by a twin screw clamp and to the bases with a more conventional thumbscrew. This system allows a low scope height which certainly helps to align the eye through the scope without having to lift your head off the stock. Lens caps are included to fit the 2in diameter objective lens, but there is no provision for a thread for a sunshade fitment, which is a shame, as it would keep the front lens more protected.
The eye-piece is 1.5in diameter, giving a decent-sized sight picture, and it also has a fast-focus rubber covering for speedy reticule focus. Forward of this, and just before the main scope body, is the rubber armoured magnification ring, which is stiff to turn clockwise and is clearly labelled for its magnification settings. On top of the scope is a small compartment for fitment of the CR2 battery, which lasts for more than 5,000 operations of normal use. It is easily accessed by a coin-slot-secured cover. Adjustments for elevation and windage take the form of conventional turret design, which is sited towards the front of the main body.
The Bushnell comes with removable turret caps which reveal ¼in adjustment per click. The turret is segregated into four clicks per interval and there are 12 numbered segments giving 12in adjustment per turn at 100 yards. This applies to the windage turrets too, but the Bushnell also comes with a series of removable bullet-drop-compensating (BDC) turrets as standard. In this way, by referring to the data in the manual or supplied CD you can choose the best-fitting turret to match the trajectory of your load, allowing a quick bullet impact change when the range has been accurately measured with the laser.
The laser is operated by two means. One, via a static rubber button on the left middle of the main tube, which has a dual purpose. Press the top section and the setting for yards or metres is set, while the main section is used to activate the laser. At a push of the button, a red Y (yards) or M (metres) appears in the top right of the field of view. A further push and there is battery life indication. Three seconds later, the range is displayed for 10 seconds. All this sits above the line of sight on a faint blue band, so as not to obscure your target. There is no illuminated reticule, but the Mil-dot design allows a useful bullet drop compensation if you do not want to use the turrets. There is also no parallax adjustment. A nice feature is the inclusion of a remote laser operating button, which is secured to an elasticated strap that can be sited on the fore-end of the stock to allow swift laser operation without moving your hand. There are two sensors on the underside of the body and the remote must be pointed towards them and no more than 6in distance to operate.
Burris Laser Scope – £805
Though similar to the Bushnell, the Burris differs in several ways. Cosmetically, the whole scope body has a small profile change, while all the main features are in the same place as the Bushnell. Only the objective lens, turrets, reticule and mounting system differ significantly. The Burris has provision for a sunshade fitment, which is supplied and is 2.4in diameter and 3in long a useful feature to have. The mounts are the simplest and allow a very low scope-mounting profile. They incorporate a single Weaver-style cross-bolt-securing unit. Simply match the clamp to the underside rail of the scope and then tighten the Weaver attachment to the rifle’s bases via a large nut simple, understated and secure.
The magnification ring is subtly different and much smoother on this model, though the same battery compartment is used. The turrets on the Burris are of a more conventional layout. With the caps removed the fixed turrets are low profile and allow a ¼in adjustment per click at 100 yards. Once you zero the scope, return the protective caps and leave well alone.
How can you compensate for range? The Burris relies on a range-compensating reticule, naming its patent Ballistic Plex, though a Mil-dot system is also now offered.
The Ballistic Plex is set at predetermined intervals that correlate to differing cartridges at differing ranges. Burris supplies a series of stickers that best suit your load and can be attached to the scope or rifle as a speedy reference. Remote operation is the same as the Bushnell from the strap-on button unit that allows handy operation.
Zeiss Diarange – £2,210
At more than £2,000 the Zeiss is the most expensive of the tested scopes and does not come with a remote, sunshade or mounts. All but the sunshade are available as an extra, however. The mounting system is the integral Zeiss rail, running the entire length of the underside of the scope body. It is a precise and very secure system, EAW mounts are available from Sentry Trading for this and both the Bushnell and Burris if you wish to upgrade.
The length of this model is a scant 13.5in and takes up no more room than a conventional hunting scope, though it weighs 920g. The laser is externally mounted on the left side and is rated to 999m maximum range and is powered by a single CR123A battery housed directly behind the laser.
Operation is from a convenient push-button sited at the base left of the body by your supporting hand, though a remote can be purchased as an extra but this is hard-wired not infra-red. A single push activates and ranges with the range indicated with the scope view at the bottom of the image. Unlike the other scopes, a fifth of the image is obscured by this readout, which is also a bright red LED unit, so it certainly attracts your attention!
There is a good choice of reticules from Zeiss. This model had the number 60, which is a 4a-type with a floating centre dot that is illuminated. Only Zeiss has this feature and it does make sense on a sporting scope. Activation is via twin buttons on the left of the scope and can be dimmed or brightened as necessary, which is very handy to allow precise shot placement as the light fades. The magnification range of 2.5 to 10 is just about perfect and the 50mm objective is more than big enough for superior light gathering. As with the Bushnell and Burris, the reticule is second focal plane and so it does not enlarge in size as the magnification increases.
Sight adjustment is rock solid, with a bullet-drop-compensation turret for elevation forming a substantial tactile hold. Each click represents 1cm adjustment at 100m and is operated by lifting the outer ring, clicking in the adjustment and then locking in the final setting by lowering the ring again. This is fast, convenient and stops unwanted adjustment by accident. All scopes should be this good.
Taking to the fields
Optically the Bushnell and Burris had comparable quality, which was excellent. There were no vignetting or aberrations to the edge of the image, only the faint blue display band for the range display was a distraction. The Zeiss won hands down in the optical quality stakes, with exceptional sharpness, colour and low-light performance. Being the one scope on test with an illuminated reticule was a bonus as well, though I preferred Burris and Bushnell’s unobstructed image.
The bullet-drop-compensation turrets with the Zeiss and Bushnell are a good idea and allow direct instant access to elevation corrections. However, the Burris Ballistic Plex works so well that, once the laser was engaged on the target, it became instinctive just to hold over with the correct stadia line. As far as accurate range estimation is concerned, all three scopes were good, but anything beyond 600 yards, such as a deer against trees, was more difficult. The Zeiss definitely worked better in the gloom of dusk compared with the other two.
Whether the Zeiss is worth twice as much as the other two models is a matter of how much extra you are willing to pay for optical perfection and an illuminated reticule.
Both the Burris and the Bushnell offer good value considering their versatility, but my choice would be the Burris due to the sunshade and understated Ballistic Plex reticule system.
However, I did discover that when the temperature dropped to -6ºC both the Burris and Bushnell lasers stopped working, while the Zeiss worked perfectly.
This may be your deciding factor – quality will out.