Long Range Scopes: Leupold Vari-X III 3.5-10x & Sightron SII & Premier Heritage & Tasco

A year ago I wrote an article for Sniper Country. The piece was my attempt to guide interested readers on such niceties as to how to choose a proper tactical scope based on their perceived and more importantly, real needs. One conclusion stated that a Law Enforcement sniper was better served by a variable power tactical rifle scope providing quarter (1/4 MOA) minute clicks for elevation and windage adjustments. No great revelation this! These units seem to provide far more precision and versatility than that found on scopes designed for military field use. Total precision is something I thought and still think a police officer needs. A military style scope typically has a ballistic cam, generically and universally called a BDC or ballistic drop compensator, a term I believe coined by Bushnell. The idea behind such an elevation turret centers around the less than ideal conditions in which the modern military snipers must engage the enemy. When faced with quickly moving targets at constantly varying ranges, the shooter does not have the time or inclination to count clicks on a turret that may take several revolutions to reach the desired range setting. Nor can he afford to be one complete turret revolution off in his range setting, a common occurrence with 1/4 MOA scopes and the uninitiated or stressed out shooter. To combat this, scope designers created turrets that require only one revolution to reach maximum range. These turrets are marked for range and are usually tuned to ballistically match a specific cartridge. The Leupold Mk4 M3 and its military brother the M3A are good examples. Their most popular turret is designed for use with a 7.62mm NATO caliber, specifically the M118 Special Ball.

I wrote that the Law Enforcement sniper would benefit from the precision provided by a quarter minute tactical scope. He would typically be called upon to engage targets from literally in his face to maybe 400 yards – with the national average being something like 75 yards. His becoming confused due to a 1/4 MOA target turret is less likely as the ranges are generally much reduced as compared to military sniping. My conclusion seemed to be based in what I thought was a common sense approach. I have seen several police rifles equipped with military style scopes, BDC turrets and fixed high magnification. This made little sense to me as these police snipers may have anywhere from several minutes to any number of hours available to adjust their equipment for the specific conditions of the disturbance they are called upon to settle. They hopefully will never face a screaming horde and never have the need to drop a platoon of angry and highly mobile combatants in short order. A quarter minute turret under normal police conditions is ideal. Also, due to the shorter ranges involved, neither fixed high magnification nor ballistic cams seemed to fit the bill. I felt that the gross adjustments of the military style scope, combined with too high a magnification was undesirable for LE shooters who traditionally require extreme precision while maintaining a good field of view.

Shortly after finishing that article, Leupold & Steven, Inc. of Beaverton, Oregon, released a new day telescope with the rather long moniker of Vari-X III 3.5-10x40mm Long Range M3. In one well designed package, Leupold blew my theory completely off the range. By combining specific features of their excellent Mk4 telescope line with that of their Vari-X III line, they have, in my view, created a rifle telescope that will be equally comfortable on the battlefield and in the field of Law Enforcement with little compromise to either. As the military becomes more involved in peace keeping, particularly in MOUT environments ( a hi-speed way of saying Urban terrain or Military Operations in Urban Terrain to be precise), the need for a lower power scope is obvious. Upon learning of this new scope development, I promptly squirreled myself away in a dark room out of the gaze of prying eyes – primarily those of my spousal unit – and quietly ordered one for myself!

Upon opening the box I was more than impressed with the appearance of the telescope. It is fairly light yet sturdy. It reminds one immediately of the Army’s M3A but with a new twist, specifically variable magnification ring just forward of the ocular lens. With its 13.5 inch length and 40mm objective, this scope is both trim and business like, bucking the current trend toward big glass and heavy weight. A fighting scope to be sure! In the box I found three extra elevation turrets, in addition to the one mounted on the scope. Each turret was marked for a popular cartridge often found employed in the tactical field. The calibers are .223, .308 Match , 30-06 and 300 Winchester Magnum. A small Allen wrench is included to facilitate the replacement or adjustment of the turrets and the scope comes wrapped in the standard Leupold green felt cover. My First experience with this scope was thus far very gratifying and hinted at good things to come.

My Third experience with this new rifle scope was quite illuminating and has changed my view completely on BDC equipped scopes. Before I tell you about it, let me address an issue that arose during my Second experience. Strength! Through no fault of my own (my story and I am sticking to it!) my brand new Long Range M3 was dropped from a bench in my garage. I dove to save my precious new possession as it fell in what appeared to be slow motion. Everything seemed to stand still as my hands stretched out in a Hail Mary grab. All sounds seemed to cease as I entered THE ZONE. Sadly, my youth has abandoned me and the swiftness of my rescue attempt was somewhere between that of a darted elephant and that massive contraption with which they use to haul the space shuttle to the launch pad. The tableau was broken with the harsh sound of metal striking cement, followed shortly thereafter by the squishy thud of my 200 pound frame imbedding itself into the floor. The scope landed on the objective ring at a 45 degree angle as exhibited by the dent newly found there. The fall was just around 4.5 feet. Were I an engineer I could compute the G-load but it will suffice to say that it was not minor. After recovering from shock, I mounted the scope on my Remington 700P and drove dejectedly to the range to assess the damage. To my delight and surprise the scope seemed none the worse for wear as it tracked beautifully through a demanding series of tests which involved dialing up and down, left and right about 10 MOA between shots. I sent the unit to Premier Reticles of Winchester Va. for their mil-dot installation and they verified that the tracking was good to go. As well, they straightened out the objective ring free of charge. Their services by the way are very impressive. The Long Range M3 was returned to me within the same week it was shipped!

With rifle (see the September issue of Tactical Shooter) and scope safely in hand I was off to the September ’98 Basic and Advanced Counter Sniper courses offered by Storm Mountain Training Center. Having been through this course the previous year, I thought it would be interesting to compare the precision ability of the Long Range M3 to a system I had used quite successfully in the prior course. That scope, a Bausch and Lomb Tactical mounted on a very accurate AT1-M24, was equipped with 1/4 minute adjustments and was very precise. Its one disadvantage was having to keep track of the elevation turret rotations as you might make several revolutions on the turret to reach the long range targets, then be expected to hit a close range target shortly thereafter. It was sometimes easy to forget how many clicks you had on when the turret read zero. In fact I missed at least one short range target when I saw my scope set to zero but didn’t realize it was actually set 12 MOA up! The Long Range M3 on the other hand has a interesting elevation turret that provides 1 MOA clicks as well as a BDC. More detail on this below. Like its big brother, the Mk4 M3, this turret can only be turned one revolution. I went to the course believing that I would never be able to precisely zero my weapon at 100 yards due to the larger 1 MOA increments. In truth, I was most surprised to find that I could easily center my groups on the very tip of a one inch black triangle! With this kind of precision, I feel a police officer could easily direct a bullet exactly to his desired point of impact within the first 350 yards. Throughout the two week course I was continuously impressed with how well this new tactical scope performed on both short and long range targets. It proved to be very repeatable and the tracking matched the stated increments. In other words, if I moved the windage turret 1/2 minute left, the strike of the bullet moved one half inch at 100 yards. The scope performed as directed in weather ranging from 40 degrees and wet to 85 degrees in the shade.

The elevation turret on the Long Range M3 is unique in that the lower portion is marked for one minute clicks with numbered 5 MOA increments while the upper portion has markings for range in meters. This is an excellent idea as it allows the shooter to specifically match the trajectory to his chosen cartridge by dialing in the required minutes or, if using a 168 grain match load, by simply dialing to the indicated range in meters ala MK4 M3. An added advantage to this turret is that one can tailor the upper markings to match his particular ballistics. There is enough room to tape over the meter markings while leaving the minute increments exposed. Either system, dialing to a specific MOA or dialing to a specific range proved very fast. For example, I knew my come-ups well enough that I could simply dial in 19 minutes by quickly turning to the number 20 and backing off one click to get on at 675 yards.

Variable power has finally matured! The ability to dial the Long Range M3 down to 3.5 power proved itself time and again at close range. Moving targets can be challenging when fired upon with a scope of high magnification. A target can literally walk or run out of your field of view. The Vari-X III 3.5-10x40mm Long Range M3 provides you with the ability and strength of a fixed 10 power scope yet allows you to decrease the magnification as needed for those situations requiring a wide field of view. This is a real boon in urban and forested environments. The scope is so versatile that it could be used equally well on a hunting rifle, urban police rifle, forestry service rifle, or military rig. I feel that the variable power, combined with the well balanced and moderate size of this scope makes it ideal in any of these situations. I did not notice any significant shift of impact when changing the magnification settings – which tells me that variable scope technology has come a long way from its infancy. You can think of this scope as a variable Mk4 M3! It may not be completely as strong, but its versatility make up for the difference.

The Long Range M3 is provided with a third turret opposite the windage knob. This is used for parallax adjustment and is very similar to that found on the Army’s M3A (Mk4 M3). All three turrets are low, very wide, and easily gripped by a gloved hand. They have a large knurled surface at their edge to assure good contact. I feel these turrets are an improvement over the Mk4 M3 in that they are easier to grip and require no external caps. They provide a little more height in comparison to the M3A without going to the extreme of a target turret, which can be cumbersome during a stalk. The turrets can be reset by loosening three set screws in each cap. As mentioned, there are no separate covers provided or needed, as the drums under the caps are sealed. The Long Range M3 comes in matte black and weighs 19.5 ounces. Its 40mm objective lens will allow mounting to any rifle/scope mount combination without hassle and will avoid the trouble one experiences when going to large objective lenses in the 56mm range. The glass is provided with Leupold’s excellent proprietary multi-coating and transmits light quite well. It is clear and distortion free to the outer edges of the glass. Viewing is bright and crisp. On a semi-moonless and rainy night I was able to see and hit targets at ranges bordering 400 yards. This is quite acceptable and came as somewhat of a surprise. These targets were backed with a tree line and were in deep shadow. While I can not claim the Long Range M3 is a night vision device, it was sufficiently clear to gong steel on a drizzly night with 20% luminosity.

If I could find one fault of this otherwise outstanding tactical telescope, it would be that Leupold oddly made no provision for a sun shade. The objective glass is recessed somewhat, but when engaging a target with the sun at its back there is a risk of reflection and detection. There are several methods to deal with this, so the problem can be minimized, but I would hope that Leupold will consider adding a sunshade to next year’s model. This issue notwithstanding, the Vari-X III 3.5-10x40mm Long Range M3 provides an outstanding value for the money, combining Vari-X III quality and MK4 M3 features at a reasonable cost. Current retail prices range from $550 for the duplex equipped version to $700 with the mil-dot ranging system. Premier Reticles offers the mil-dot equipped version at very competitive price, approximately $675. Premier will also install the Marine Corps mil-dot system on your Duplex scope for $118. For another $25 they will add a luminescent material to the heavy wire posts that will glow for 20 minutes once charged via flashlight. I had this option added and it is quite effective out to at least 300 yards, the farthest I tried it. Beyond this range it may be problematic to center the target in the heavy outer posts. The luminescent material gives off just enough glow to pick up the posts in total darkness and does not seem to hurt night vision in any way. It is certainly more convenient than the field expedient cylume glow stick “peanut” method used occasionally in the military where you wrap a miniature glow stick in tape and wedge it in the ocular end. While functional and expedient, that method, if improperly done can allow someone to pick up the sniper by the light of the stick transmitting through the tube.

If you are looking for total performance at an equitable price, I would highly recommend the Vari-X III 3.5-10x40mm Long Range M3. It is backed by Leupold’s excellent lifetime warranty, which is probably the best in the business. While theoretically not a strong as a fixed power scope, my own experience has indicated that the LR M3 has what it takes. I fully expect to see this scope show in force during the ensuing years at tactical meets, real life call-outs, and even the deep woods as hunters look to improve their equipment and take advantage of the trends being brought about by the tactical shooting community! I feel the military would be well advised to evaluate this scope also as it very well may meet future urban needs. If you have been holding out for a premium piece of glass with which to top that tactical rifle, this versatile (and obviously strong!) scope just might be the ticket. It is the first variable magnification tactical scope I have ever been truly comfortable with. Being an ex-infantry grunt, I didn’t think – until now – that a scope with a lot of moving parts could hang tough enough for the, um… shall we say, less than pleasant attitudes troops sometimes exhibit when dealing with equipment? This scope seems up to the task. Just look at the chip in my garage floor!

Sightron SII416X42MD Tactical Riflescope

I recently had an opportunity to evaluate the Sightron SII416X42MD. This is the first of Sightron’s offerings with a mil-dot reticle. This is the first time I have had a chance to review one of Sightron’s products.

Although Sightron is not a company one normally thinks of when referring to makers of tactical optics, the addition of the mil-dot reticle in a $325 US (approx.) scope caught my interest.

Sightron is a Japanese company, though they maintain an office in North Carolina. Although my initial contact with the stateside folks showed them to be friendly, the fact that most of their engineering staff is located in Japan made getting technical information somewhat challenging.

The Sightron SII416X42MD is a 4-16x 42mm target turret scope that is available with the mil-dot reticle. The scope has a once-piece aluminum body with a separate 6-inch aluminum sunshield that can be screwed onto the objective housing. The scope comes in both 30mm and 1-inch models. The 1-inch tube body was used for this evaluation.

On first impression the SII416X42MD is a well-built scope with very nice optics. Though I was unable to obtain exact numbers on the resolution of the optics, subjectively speaking they are comparable to any of the high-end scopes I’ve worked with.

I found the unit to be well made and well finished. The tube itself is nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging and other such problems. The body is covered with very fine concentric rings that cause the scope to grip tightly in any standard set of scope rings. I mounted the scope on both a Savage 110 long action and a Springfield M1A third-generation mount, and found there to be plenty of room for placing the mounting rings to allow for proper eye relief. The interior of the sunshade contains small ridges to prevent glare or reflections.

Though there are certainly stronger and heavier scopes on the market, the Sightron is adequately built for field use. Overall, the body of the scope is excellent.

As I noted before, the optics on the Sightron are very good. They are all coated optics, and though I could not get exact specifications on them, I found the scope to be very bright and clear for a 42mm unit. The magnification ranges from 4 to 16 power, changed by rotating a ring on the ocular lens housing. The ring has a small lever on it, so it is very easy to manipulate even with gloved hands. The eye relief is 3.5″ which I find to be about ideal, but this is a personal preference.

The placement of the parallax adjustment is again really a matter of personal preference. I find the objective mounted adjustment works best for me; you might prefer something else. Turning the objective housing makes parallax adjustments. The bell of the housing is marked clearly with ranges from 50 to infinity. I was unable to confirm if the adjustments are in meters or yards, but that makes no real practical difference, as everyone’s eyes are slightly different. Overall, the optics are excellent.

The main problems I found with this scope are related to the reticle. It appears to me that Sightron’s engineers’ understanding of the mil-dot leaves something to be desired. From what I can tell, they simply redesigned the mil-dot system rather then following the existing one. And, yes, before you say it, I know that you can’t reinvent a mil-dot system and still have it be a milliradian system. Rather, the issue seems to be that when they went to put the mil-dot reticle on an adjustable-power scope, they decided that since the system would only work at one power setting, it was better to redesign the system.

What they have done is set the system up rather like the one many hunting scopes used for range estimation. These systems work by having you adjust the optical power setting so that marks on the reticle bracket an object of a known size. The way Sightron’s system works is to start with the known size of an object in inches, then look at a chart to find the measurement that most closely matches. Personally, I don’t think the system is workable at all.

The engineers really missed the boat on this one. Not to mention their documentation of this issue is almost completely lacking. However, after mulling it over for several hours and playing with an Excel spread sheet (who said geeks aren’t dangerous?) I came up with a system that I feel works as well as the mil-dot system on variable power scopes. I have worked out the details for anyone interested at the end of this review.

You should also be aware that the dot in the mil-dot pattern aren’t quite those of a standard mil-dot system. So that it would be impossible to use as a standard mil-dot even if you fixed the power setting at 12.5 (which happens to make the rest of the pattern work the way it should). My overall view of the reticle system on this scope is that the company did a poor job of understanding the intended use, and an even worse job of documenting their system.

I think it is just dumb luck that another very workable system exists for the pattern they have chosen. As it turns out, I really like the alternate system suggested above, and I included the table mentioned above in case someone might be interested in employing it. The elevation and windage adjustments are the next point to consider. The turrets are unusual in that they are 1/8 minute of angle, not the standard 1/4. This allows for a bit more precision, but requires turning the dial more. To be honest, it is questionable as to whether that level of precision is of any real use tactically. The knobs have a good feel and audible click as they turn.

The internal scope adjustments have an unusual design that Sightron claims makes the scope more consistent at the extremes of adjustment. The real limiting factor here is that the range of travel is only 56 MOA. This particular limitation may well be related to the special internal design these scopes have to ensure there is very little variation in point of impact even at the extremes of travel. This still presents a bit of an issue, because for military use with the .308WIN round, you need a minimum of 44 MOA worth of adjustment.

For me, this issue almost made the scope a no-go until I talked to the good folks at Burris. Now, I don’t like to make unqualified statements, but the Burris Signature Series scope rings with offset bushings are absolutely wonderful. These rings allow you to very securely mount on a weaver base and set the scope at whatever initial angle suits your purposes. Using Burris rings allows one to decrement the scope turret 90% of the way and zero it using the rings. This allows you to use the full range of travel for elevation adjustments. Once that was done I found the turrets to work very well.

The only other complaint I have about the turret system on these scopes is that the change in elevation per full rotation of the turret is 7.5 MOA. This forces you to think a bit more then you should have to in order to make an adjustment in elevation.

For example: to make an adjustment of 23 MOA, you must first turn the turret three full turns to get to 22.5, then make your last 0.5 adjustment from zero. I would much rather see the turrets turn 10 MOA per rotation, that way you could just rotate them 2 turns then make your last adjustment of three.

I would say that the turrets and adjusting system on this scope are good quality, but difficult to operate. In my opinion, the Sightron SII416X42MD is a good scope but a little mis-designed. They essentially took an exceptional hunting scope and added a different reticle pattern. Though I feel that while the overall quality of the scope is excellent, there wasn’t enough consideration given to the needs of a tactical shooter to make this scope a serious contender.
Alternate ranging system for the Sightron SII416x42MD

For those of you who are interested, what follows is a description of the ranging system I worked up for use with the reticle on the SII416X42MD.

Most of us are used to having to divide fractional mils to get to the range, so having a calculator in the field (at least a watch-style one) is generally accepted as the norm. With that in mind, I came up with another chart that allows one to convert the height or width of a known object to the range of the object. The process is actually very simple.

First, pick an object of known size, then focus the scope on the object and adjust the power setting of the scope until the object fills the distance from the center of one dot to the center of an adjacent dot. All you have to do then is multiply the size of the object in inches by a number from the chart and that gives you the range in yards. That way, there is an only one number you have to multiply by another.

If you want to determine the range of an object you know to be 36-inches tall (1 yard), you must first focus on the target and adjust the magnification until the target just fills the distance between the center of two dots (personally I prefer to use from the top of one dot to the top of the next dot).

You then look at the power setting (for this example, say the target is bracketed when the power setting is at 11).

Finally, you multiply the height of the object by the number that is next to the 11 on the chart. In this case we would use 24.44 because that is next to the number 11.

With this method, the only math you have to do to get the range in yards is 36 X 24.44 = 880. The reason I say I like this system better in some circumstances then the mil-dot is because my guess at how large the target is in inches is often better then my guess at how large the target is in fractions of a meter.

The disadvantage of this system is that you have a greater margin for error when you read the power setting, because you need to take the closest number. I recommend guessing to the closest quarter power, i.e. 7.5, 7.75, 8, etc.

Personally, I find the increase in accuracy in estimating the size of the target more than makes up for the loss in reading the power setting. Again, all this is personal preference. The other issue here is that when measuring objects that are at very close range (closer then 300 yards), they often appear larger than the space between one dot to the next even on the lowest power setting.

While this may not be an issue for military snipers, police-style shooters would experience a problem until they simply convert to using the distance between a greater number of dot-to-dot spaces to bracket the target. In that case, you just have to remember to divide your answer by the number of dot-to-dot spaces you are using.

For example: if using three dot-to-dot spaces instead of one for a 36-inch target, you have to divide your answer by three.

The other option is to make a little chart where you have already divided the “multiplier” numbers from my chart by 2, 3, 4 and 5. This way, it just becomes a matter of using the multiplier that matches the number of dot to dot spaces you are using to range the target. I am certain all this seems rather complicated, but then again, so did the mil-dot system when you first heard it.

Premier Heritage – 3-15×50 Tactical Scope with Gen 2 Mil Dot™

By Mike Miller
Premier Heritage Scope
If you have been around sniper rifles, as long as I have, you have seen lots and lots of new ideas. Some have been good, some OK, some bad and some just terrible. About a year ago I heard rumor of a new American Made Scope coming out designed for hard use. Anytime I hear American Made my ears perk up as so little is made in USA.

It took awhile to find who the manufacture working to build the new scope was but eventually I found out it was Premier Reticles. That was great news as I not only have I dealt with them for several decades but their history goes back to making optical devices, for the war effort, back in WWII. It is hard to argue that history. If you know little about Premier you just need to know a few things. They have earned a good reputation by making the best reticles in the industry, they own the patent on the Gen Two Mildot Reticle and they provided the USMC with its latest Scout Sniper Scopes, being the final assembly point on the scopes through a joint venture with Schmidt and Bender. The Gen Two Mildot Reticle was not only chosen by the USMC but the US Army also picked it for some of their sniper scopes, so it is good to go.

If you are worried about a new scope coming from primarily a reticle manufacture you should know Premiers history.

Premier worked on Leupold scopes for many years (No longer available) upping the power, changing reticles and providing authorized service.

Years ago Premier redesigned the Leupold MK4 3.5-10 and several VariXIII scopes to be Front Focal Plane type with Gen Two Mildot reticles. Honestly to convert a scope to FFP from Rear Focal Plane (RFP) takes as much if not more engineering than ground up design. Leupold has since offered these options from their factory so Premier no longer offers this option.

When Premier decided to make their own scope from ground up they went out and hired the best engineers they could find and directed them to make simply the best field tactical scope out there.

Now before I jump into this the reader needs to understand the purpose this scope was made for. That purpose was not to cut “X’s” in paper or week end games. It was to be used in field under hard conditions, be able to change zero settings without tools, and be able to take every US Military Sniper system, from its zero to its maximum range in one turn of the elevation knob. 22 Mils will take a 50BMG way past 2000 meters so it has reached its goal in having enough elevation in one turn to go to the farthest effective range of the biggest sniper system we currently deploy. The most common US Sniper System uses a 7.62 Nato round. That round reaches its Maximum Effective Range at just over half the elevation this scope has. This scope is designed to be used by the best under the worse conditions possible.

Reticle:
This scope houses the Gen Two Mildot reticle in the Front Focal Plane of the scope. I have said in prior articles and still believe the Generation Two Mildot reticle is the best reticle for field tactical applications.

A FFP (Front Focal Plane Reticle) does not change the distances it subtends, no matter the scopes power settings. What that means in shorter terms is no matter the power setting, you can Mil, Hold over, Hold off or do anything that requires an accurate measurement with reticle without changing power setting. A RFP (Rear Focal Plane) Reticle only subtends the correct amount on one setting.

A FFP’s distance between two Mil Marks is One Mil on 1X or 500X. A RFP Reticle set for Mil Readings to be correct at 20X would be twice as far between Mils, turned down to 10X ( 1 Mil would equal two on 10X) and half as far on 40X (1 Mil spacing would equal .5 mil actual distance on 40X). The FFP Reticle is the reticle that appears to get larger as power is increased and smaller as power is turned down. The RFP Reticle is the one that always appears to be the same size no matter the power setting of the scope.

For Field Tactical Applications the FFP is easier to make adjustments on the fly, while the RFP is easier to shoot small groups at greater distances and power settings. It is all a trade off but for Field Tactical Work the FFP rules as king. In contrast top 1000 Yard Target Shooters mostly use RFP. Remember this scope is for Tactical Purposes and the FFP was the correct choice for the reticle in this application. The Reticle clarity is adjusted by turning the rear ocular until reticle is clear. This was simply to do and only took a couple of seconds. Once Reticle is adjusted the adjustment is locked down and not touched again.

Optical Quality:
Optical quality is always subjective and it is hard to test one scope of any top brand against one of another top brand scope to get true feel of optical quality, but this scope has glass as good or better than any scope I have ever viewed through. I recently had a get together with other shooters who had a chance to use this scope and several other top brands. Most picked this as the best optically of the high dollar scopes on deck that day. During my tests I found the lenses clear to edges and capable of excellent day and night performance. Color correction through the scope was correct. The parallax was easily adjustable from 50 yards to past 2000 yards (As far as I got to test the parallax adjustment)

Turret Design:
Premier Heritage Turret
The turret design of this scope is something different in several ways. Most scopes require a tool to change the initial zero setting. Tools are often lost in the field. This scope does not use a tool to change the zero setting. The turret has a recessed area a throw lever folds into. The throw lever provides the tension to lock the turret at its zero location. This lever looks like a smaller version of a throw lever used to lock Bicycle Wheels in place on Mountain Bikes. Having ridding bikes a bunch I know the design provides plenty of leverage. To zero either the elevation or windage knob you simply shoot the rifle and adjust with lever in down/locked position. Once you have the zero established you place the lever in the up/release position you simply turn the knob to zero and then lock down the lever. Understand, while no tools are required the lever needs to be pried open with a cartridge case or other device. If properly locked down you will tear a finger nail off attempting to raise the lever.

The Elevation Knob is designed for one single rotation from 0 to 22Mils. This design does not allow for a shooter to be off a turn which has become common for long range shooters with multiple turn knobs. The knob has slight markings at every .2 of a Mil with number markings at 2.0 Mil spacings. The knob has two types of detents or “Clicks” as you turn it. Every .10 Mil is a slight click while every full Mil Spacing has a much heavier clunk type of click. This is so a shooter can count his Mils up in dark, quickly, without light and by feel. The knob can also be set up so the shooter can give Premier his or her data and Premier can make it so the heavier clunks fit into the shooters yardage marks. You would have heavy clicks at all the ranges you wanted and smaller less harsh clicks on each side so you could fine tune for environmental conditions. Something many tactical shooters need/want.

With 22Mils in one turn the Elevation Knob has clicks very close together for the .10 Mil spacing. This means for a .10mil click you have to be careful or you will end up with a .20mil adjustment instead of the .10 Mil you wanted. It’s a trade off, if you want 22 Mils in one turn the clicks have to be close together or the turret will be overly large. This turret is as large as I want in a scope so the clicks need to be close together. Another version of this scope will soon be out with approximately 15- 18 mils per turn and two turns for a total of 30-34 Mils (Not set as of this writing) but I prefer the single turn 22 Mil version. One turn is what I want. Remember this scope is for field tactical work and not punching X’s in paper. Even if the shooter accidentally makes a .20 Mil adjustment instead of a .10 Mil adjustment he/she will have only made about a 1/3 MOA error or roughly 1.5” at 500 yards. Folks for field work that sure beats the minimum of 1 MOA (5” at 500 yards) minimum adjustment the Unertl MST100 and Leupold Ultra Mk4 M3 scopes make! At worse making a click mistake to 2/10ths of a Mil adjustment is fine enough for field work, while the newer version will probably find more favor with Match and Hostage Rescue use.

Windage Knob:
The windage knob of this scope has 8 Mils in each direction adjustment in 1/10th Mil clicks. These clicks I found easy to make 1/10th Mil adjustments. Clicks were positive and precise. Zero is set same way as the elevation knob.

Premier Heritage 3

Tracking:
No scope is worth anything if it will not track. This scope shinned in tracking department. It was tested under field conditions/temperatures of high 30’s F to low 100’s F, with over a dozen Box Drills ran. The drills where 10 mils up, five mils left, ten mils down, ten mils to right and lastly five mils back to the original starting point. It worked flawlessly every time I ran the drills. One Mil adjustment on this scope is exactly one mil. The adjustments are accurate and repeatable.

After running the drills in the worse conditions I could find in my area of California (Sorry its no Alaska) I put the scope in the freezer for two days and then took it out and checked adjustments again. They remained accurate and repeatable. The scope knobs functioned correctly and I found no issues with the scope being cold. Obviously this can not duplicate the Military Test of working in minus 40 C to 60 C temperatures and submersion to 1atm (33 feet). I asked Premier how the scope functions in those temps and was told the scope passed when they tested it under US Military Testing procedures. Remember this scope is designed for military use so no wonder it was tested by the manufacture to the same standards the US Military would require. I was not able to test to US Military level myself because a lack of facilities to do so. Throwing the scope in the freezer is the best I could do. It passed that test. This is harsher testing than most testers have done to other scopes.

I shot with the scope to 1000 yards and found no issues running the knobs, tracking or focus. It was a pleasure to use.

Parallax Adjustment:

This is a side mounted Parallax Adjustment scope. The knob was easy to access from shooting positions, smooth and easy to correct for distances between 50 yards and just over 2000 yards (The farthest distance I could work at). This is far easier than the front adjustment some use and often requiring you to break your shooting position to adjust parallax. Some shooters complained of no markings on the knob for parallax adjustment. Frankly there is simply no reason for markings. To adjust parallax you turn knob until target is clear as you can make it. The US Army did away with yardage markings on Parallax adjustment knobs several decades ago because it just confused the end users into thinking something was wrong when the numbers did not match up with what they saw. I would not add markings on parallax to any scope.

Lit Reticle Feature

The lit reticle is adjustable and the controls are housed inside the parallax adjustment knob. You pull the knob out and adjust to the level on intensity you need for conditions. This includes NVD settings. Once done you turn the knob back to zero, the off position and then slide it inside the parallax knob, to keep it from damage. A nice feature is the knob will only slide back in when in off position. This keeps the shooter from running down the battery when not in use. It has eleven intensity settings with an off setting between each number. If the shooter forgets to turn off the reticle it will automatically turn off after six hours.

The lit reticle itself only lights the center cross hair area. There has been much debate on how much of the reticle should be lit. Typically the reason the center area only is lit is to keep the light signature down so enemies with NVD’s have more trouble finding you. It does make Holdovers and Ranging Abilities harder to complete at night. The whole reticle being lit allows easier use of the holdovers and Ranging capabilities but provides a larger light signature, this easier for enemies to find you. It’s a trade off and only you will know what is right for you. I have used both and like both.

Scope Caps:

The scope caps on the Heritage are a work in process. They will probably be shipping by the time this article is made public. Premier sent me prototype caps that look great and function well. These are a huge step up from the typical ones on the market. One thing these caps do away with is the slipping off problem of most scope caps. These are captured by a ring on the scope body at the front and rear ocular ends. Quality of the scope covers is outstanding. A high quality finish to a high quality scope.

Observations during use:

I was able to use this scope many times during the month of testing. It was used on the following weapons systems

  • a) AJ Brown Built Remington 700 Custom 7.62 caliber with 20” BBl and McMillan A3/A5 Stock. This stock has proven to be my favorite stock of all time
  • b) NorCal Precision Built 24” bbl 7.62 caliber Custom Remington 700 with McMillan A3/A5 stock

Ammunition used was Black Hills 175 and 155 grain Match. This is ammunition that has proven capable of sub .50 moa groups in these rifles many times so I have confidence in any results shot with Black Hills ammunition. The rifles speak for themselves when ever they are shot. They just pound round after round in the same holes.

The scope was used at many square range shooting facilities to 1000 yards and I found no issues with scope or its functions shooting from the four positions, standing, seated, kneeling and prone. Prone was shot with bipod, with rucksack and with Quick Cuff Sling (Discloser My sling design if you did not already know). Seated was shot with Quick Cuff Sling and Tripod.

I do believe though the only way to really check how equipment is used is to use in field. I took the 4×4 and headed to hills and spent a couple of days. I dropped a bunch of resetting LV Shooter targets around a valley and started shooting from different places that required weird shooting positions. Nothing like hiking to a spot and saying shoot from here to build skills and see how equipment really works. If you are like me hiking will provide plenty of dropped and bumps (Clumsy) to equipment. This is where you see if adjustments come loose, zeros shift, knobs get bumped off settings and just what will go wrong. Nothing went wrong or came loose on this scope. This is not the same as six months in an AO but gives a good idea of what to expect. Many other scopes have fallen on their ears with these tests. The Premier scope came through fine. Nothing came loose or moved.

Conclusions:
Premier has hit a homerun here. I may not be fair here because I have not seen anything negative with this scope but I have seen other manufactures suffer getting new stuff just right and that is always in the back of my mind. So while I see nothing negative with this scope I would not be surprised in some small issues show themselves as more and more of these find their way to end users. I do believe if any issues come up with their scope Premier will handle them quickly. With that said I don’t expect anything seriously to go wrong with this scope. Mine has been beaten and still works perfectly. By the way before I received this scope it was previously beaten/tested by a former USMC Scout Sniper who sent it directly to me with note saying he could not break it. God knows he tried as when he shipped it to me it was just thrown loose in a box, no padding, just left to bang around and shipped ground UPS. When I was through with this scope I shipped it back to Premier so the next guy can see if he can break it.

The Marine Tester before me ended up purchasing one of these and I hope you all purchase enough of my slings I can also. Time to save pennies.

Premier has filled a need and done so very well.

This is not the end for the Heritage line. Look for 5-25 power and knobs with less but adjustment per turn in next few months. I am certainly excited about the new scope line.

Tasco Super Sniper Scope

If you are like me you try most everything that comes out for sniping. I did this when the Super Sniper scope came out from Tasco over ten years ago. This scope was purposely designed to compete in the military market as a real world sniper scope. I purchased a 10X power side focus model. This is the model the Navy had purchased as possible less expensive replacements for the Leupold Ultra series of scopes. After testing the Navy stayed with Leupold and the Super Snipers found their way to the US shooting market. Rumor is the Tasco’s worked well but the Ultra’s where better.

Like I said before I bought one back then, mostly as a lark, because lets face it, no one would have used a Tasco for sniping. Well let me tell you, that first scope I had was fantastic. Frankly it was only slightly less than my Leupold Ultra was in quality. I mean slightly. Well I liked that scope so much I competed in several shooting events with it. It never failed me. It saw its share of good finishes and lived on one of my rifles for many years. Then the unthinkable happened, a friend who was moving away came over and fell in love with it. I gave it to him, knowing I could buy another . I went out and bought another. Little did I know Tasco had fallen on tough times and the Super Snipers of that time where in short CRAP! Four scopes later I gave up and said I would never use one again. It went on that way for several years and I made it clear to everyone I saw not to buy the Tasco and used the term Trashco often.

Then I met up with Chris Farris of SWFA and was told they had bought the rights to the Super Snipers and under their supervision the scopes where being made to the original specifications again. Chris Farris told me the scopes where just like the originals I had used before. He asked I test and write about one. I was torn between my good and bad experiences in the past, but all my dealings with SWFA had been great, so on Chris’s word I said I would test one. A few days later a 10×42 side focus, with 30mm tube arrived. First impressions where great. The glass was very clear. The clicks where crisp. It was too nice for a 399.00 scope. I put it aside wondering if I got a hand picked scope. A few days later I called and ordered a 16×42 rear focus 30mm tube (retail 299.00) and asked for overnight shipment knowing it would be impossible to hand pick that scope. It arrived as promised. It was also perfect looking out of the box.

Well enough of fondling the scope. I took them out and ran some tests. Lets face it this series of scopes is either loved or hated so I knew my tests had better be just plain harsh before I said anything about the scopes. People would talk either way. It was going to be a dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t article, so once again test, test and more tests were done. I wanted to be so clean on this anyone questioning would have no ammunition to send my way. Either good or bad my article would be backed with hard data!

The box test was standard. 20 moa in all directions, for a 40 moa by 40 moa square. Both scopes worked perfectly so I ran the test six times with the same perfect results. Then I cranked each knob for about an hour each, constantly going all the way in one direction and then in the other. That is thousands of clicks. Then I ran the box tests twice more. All results where the same, perfect. I cranked in 20 moa and the change made was 20 moa. The clicks are truly .25 moa each . Both scopes had over 100 moa of actual travel, so they wont run out of elevation adjustment on you. Under most any condition or range. Heck lets face it you have enough travel to send a 338 Lapua over 1500 yards. One thing often overlooked when we talk click value is how many MOA’s per turn of the elevation knob. Some manufactures of .25 moa per click scopes, have 8 moa, some 10 moa, some 12 moa and lastly 15 moa per turn. Leupold and the Super Sniper share, what I think is the best, that’s 15 moa per turn. It is harder to multiply, under stress in eights and twelve’s. Ten’s are easiest but take 1.5 times the amount of turns a 15 moa per turn scope does. I like the 15 moa per turn knob because on my flatter shooting calibers I can get to 1000 yards with less than two full turns, and just slightly over two turns with a 308. The less the number of turns the less likely you will forget under stress and be off one or more turns.

The optics where not as clear as US Optics, Nightforce, Nikon Tactical or Leupold MK4’s but not bad. Remember these are 300-400.00 scopes not 1250.00 plus! The optics where better than anything similar I have used under 600.00. I would have no problem taking this out for “F Class” shooting at 1000 yards.

The toughness will not be an issue. I subjected both of these scope to the following recoil tests:

100 rounds of 300 grain 338 Lapua ammunition at 2850fps and in a 13 lb. GA Precision Built “Boulder” rifle. The GA Precision rifle is great to shoot with a brake but a 13 lbs. 338 Lapua is just a beast to shoot without a brake. I took the very good Badger brake off. And made the rifle shoot rifle kick harder than any I have ever used before. This rifle has broken more than one reticle. Basically the bull no one can ride without the Badger brake. Well the scopes rode this bull as many times as I would pull the trigger. Look for more on this rifle in the near future. it’s a Remington 700 based, McMillan A5 stocked, Mike Rock bbl’d master piece.
400 rounds of 308 118LR ammunition, through a NorCal Precision built 308, constantly cranking the turrets and focus knobs. If you do this test, it only truly works with rifles like the GA Precision and NorCal Precision built ones., as the test is dependant on the rifles ability to put them all in one hole. A trick if your rifle is not as accurate is to fir larger groups and take the center of the group. I used 3 shot groups as they all touched in both the GA Precision and NorCal Precision rifles. You may need to use five or more rounds to be able to count out fliers.
Dropping from three feet to the ground. I have seen scopes costing over 1200.00 fail this test. The Super Snipers passed without a shift in zero.

Just plain abuse test. I just treated these scope like crap, dragging when I should have carried. Not cleaning the dirt off. Just field testing like I did not own them. What can I say they stood up to the test of a guy wanting to see if they could take it.
Now for the nice things

Reticle accuracy: Lets face it, more and more companies are having trouble with scopes who’s reticles are not right. The Super Sniper has .25mil dots spaced 1 mil apart. Hey someone got it right and did it in a 300.00 scope!

When SWFA brought these back, they came out with a Tenebrex Kill Flash/ARD that screws into the objective and keeps the bells size the same. This was one nice little tool. Same with the sunshade it does not change the size of the objective. Now that may not mean much to you, but I for one only carry one flip up objective cover in the field and if it does not fit the sunshade the sunshade gets tossed! Frankly with the Tenebrex Kill Flash/ARD you don’t need the sunshade any way. I have to tell you before this Tenebrex I used the Butler Creek version and the Tenebrex is so much better I am changing all my scopes over.

Now the question I kept asking and you will probably ask also is “How does SWFA keep the price down”? Chris explained they own the rights and have them shipped direct to them. No middle men to add on a percentage for saying hello and sending them to you. As explained, if put into a normal retail channel these scopes would retail for 800.00

I put the SWFA Super Snipers in a class of scopes for the guy who wants to shoot a bunch for fun, does not have to have the absolute best, but wants equipment that will work great for as little money as possible. The scopes work well and are the best deal going in the price range. I am keeping the two I have. The 16X will ride the old bull .338 Lapua and the 10X is working dandy on a nice little NorCal Precision Built .308.

I am back to saying Hell yes get one and have fun!

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