(This article is an update to several pieces written in 1998, on the SS10X42 and SS10X42M Tactical. Since that time several things have changed in the SS series of Tasco sniper scopes and they merit a fresh overview. While this is not a full-blown review in the traditional sense, it covers information not presented in the first series.)
Fixed power rifle scopes were once the standard by which strength and reliability were measured in the optic world. Just 30 years ago the idea that a variable magnification telescopic sight could hold its zero through its range of adjustment was, at best, a possibility and at worst, a pipe dream. As technology progressed, companies were better able to create reliable and repeatable variable magnification telescopic sights. Leupold and other companies equally known for their high-quality work, led in producing sights able to zoom from low magnification to high and back again, while still maintaining a reasonable expectation of zero retention. In recent years, these sights have become so good that one hardly worries about the issue - that is if one is willing and able to part with the money required to assure a top quality device. High-end optics AND repeatability is not cheap. Still, a revolution of sorts has taken place and we now see several excellent examples of variable powered sights that can take a beating and hold up as well as their fixed magnification brethren and in some cases, exceed them. Does this mean the death knell for fixed power scopes? Hardly. There will always be the need for a sight that has the simplicity, strength and even lower cost found in the traditional fixed power. You simply can not beat a fixed magnification scope for abusability. Then there is the fact that, dollar for dollar, you can get very good glass in a high quality Fixed power scope when compared to an equally priced variable. While the debate between the types goes on at ranges and in gun rooms, the simple fact remains that, protestations of old timers aside, both the variable and fixed power scopes have finally come of age - that is of course if you are willing to spring for quality.
In the last few years my own attitude has changed and I have become very enamored of the concept of a variable power scope on a sniper type rifle. With the introduction of the Leupold LR M3 and LR M1 it is no wonder, as they represent some of the best technology available for the shooter who needs the ability to dial down for close-in situations. Built military tough they, to my mind, offer a better alternative to sniping optics than do the more traditional Mk4 M1 or Mk4 M3 fixed power series. With the changing face of military involvement overseas and our troops being tossed into many urban situations, the ability to dial back to 5x or 3x must be a godsend for the shooter in the field.
However, my own proclivities aside, there is still MANY reasons to mount a fixed power scope on a sniper rifle. You can not beat the simplicity of the type. Nor will you have to worry about the extra training required to get an excited or stressed out grunt to return his scope to the specified magnification before attempting to range an object. Fixed power often means one less thing to worry about in an endeavor where you have to worry about MANY things. And frankly, even at 100 yards, a 10x fixed power scope is not at all that great a disadvantage. I have shot at many moving targets from a slow pace to a full-out run and have been able to score hits with a fixed 10x. So, it would truly seem that fixed power, while less than glamorous in today's gadget oriented world, is still here to stay and just as effective. For true grunt work, you just got to love it!
So, without further rambling on my part, let's get into the meat of this two-part article; the Tasco series of sniper related telescopic sights. You will be very surprised, I promise you. First off, let's clear up a thing or two about optics production. Some of you may have noticed that you can buy a scope from one company that looks very similar to another brand. The fact is that many companies do not have their own production facilities and rely on vendors to produce their goods. I can think of several US and Japanese brands that buy their glass from the same manufacturer. The market in which they intend the product to sell often dictates the quality you typically see in a given brand. Tasco has often sold to bargain department stores. Their target buyer was the hunter on a limited budget who needed a cheap scope with which to bring home the game at 50 to 300 yards. While there are plenty of wealthy hunters, let's face it, you'll see more shopping at K-Mart than you will see at Cabellas. As a result, Tasco has suffered a little in the eyes of serious precision shooters because these shooters generally steer well clear of such lowly optics due to their obvious disadvantages. When Tasco released their Sniper series, many people just assumed that this was in fact a low dollar, low-tech department store sight that was not worth its weight in lead. They forgot to recall that Tasco, in many cases, vends out their projects and if they want, can have SOMEONE ELSE produce high quality optics. And in this case, the SS series is hardly crap. On the contrary, as we will discuss shortly, it is anything but.
The SS series line of scopes, in their current form, were created to compete for a military contract. The parent design was built to military specifications as laid out in the requirements presented by the Navy. At the time, it was rumored that Leupold was considering ending production of their well known Mk 4 series and when the Navy began looking for a new scope, both Tasco and Bausch & Lomb stepped up to the plate. Tasco entered the SS10x42 and Bausch & Lomb the 10x Elite 4000 Tactical. Both sights are functional examples of a fixed power sniper scope and if you look closely you will note that both look very similar as a result of the original specification. Even their cost was similar, running near $1000 a pop. What this means is that you have little reason to scoff at the Tasco scope as it was created to compete with some very good competition. In the end, Leupold wisely continued to manufacture the Mk4 as well as the new LR M1 and LR M3. The Army, a traditional buyer for these optics, continues to rely on them. The Navy awarded Tasco U.S. Navy Contract #N00164-93-C-205 and the SS10x42M stayed in production until Tasco fulfilled its obligation.
After production ceased, SWFA Inc., a national optics retailer, contracted with Tasco and assured the continued production of the scope by the same vendor and under the same specifications as required by the original military contract. Since that time, SWFA has enjoyed a fairly interesting clientele. By their own numbers, approximately 40% of their SS Sniper Scope sales are city or state law enforcement agencies, about 10% of sales are federal law enforcement agencies, 10% general military, 5% elite military and 35% general public. In other words, the next time someone laughs at your choice of this scope, saying with derision "but heavens MAN, it is a Tasco!", you can just look at them with a knowing grin and walk away knowing that all things are not as they appear.