ULD Update Part III

Now we can talk about the optics I’m thinking of putting on whatever rifle I finally choose for Boomershoot 2020.  To start with, I looked at this article, which lists the most popular scopes used by the majority of serious long-distance competitive shooters.  To spoil the surprise, I’ll tell you that pretty much all of them (e.g. Kahles) cost more than $3,000 — which, given my budget, makes them unreachable.  Back to Square 1, more or less.

I know a bit about scopes (admittedly, while not that up to date on the most recent developments), but having struggled with scopes at Boomershoots passim, I know a couple of features that are must-haves:

  • at least 20x magnification (25x would be even better)
  • a front aperture  (“bell”) of at least 50mm diameter
  • preferably, an illuminated reticle for when the weather clouds over, or it gets towards evening — understanding that this feature typically adds about $300 – $400 to the price
  • and of course I’d be looking at scopes priced in the $900 – $1,300 range

I’m also unimpressed by a fiddly reticle requiring a laptop to make calculations, because it would just take me time to get to work the things properly.  I know my way around scopes, pretty much, and Boomershoot is not a “precision” competition which would require such things anyway.

So with that in mind, I looked around at various online outlets which specialize in these things (SWFA, Europtics etc.) and came up with a shortlist (in no specific order, prices approximate):

 1) Sightron 6-24×50 SIII 30mm (illuminated MOA-2, side focus, 1/4 MOA, zero stop) $1,300
It’s an excellent scope, even though it’s at the very upper end of the price range.  The 6-32x model with the identical reticle is a couple hundred bucks cheaper.

2) Minox 5-25×56 ZX5i 30mm (matte, illuminated plex, side focus) $800
Minox is my favorite mid-range scope, but this one suffers by having no mil-dots or gradations. But the price means I could afford a better rifle…

3) Sig Sauer 5-25×52 WHISKEY5 30mm (illuminated MOA-2, quad plex, side focus, 0.25 MOA adjustment)

I’ve never shot a SIG scope before, but this one has had some good reviews.  Likewise, no mil-dots etc.

4) Zeiss 6-24×50 Conquest V4 30mm (illuminated #93, side focus, ext. elevation turret)

Right now, the Zeiss would get my vote.  Without the red-dot it’s $200 cheaper.

5) Steiner 4-20×50 GS3 30mm (Plex S1, Side Focus, 2/p)
This Steiner doesn’t have an illuminated reticle, but nobody I know who shoots this brand has ever had any bad words about the quality.  There’s another one at the same price, with a different reticle.

6) Nikon Black FX1000 6-24×50 30mm (illuminated, side focus, FX-MOA FFP)  $800

If all else failed and the budget fell apart, I’d go with this one.  I just don’t know whether the Nikon scopes have the consistent quality of the others above — there’s a reason why their sales have tanked over the years –and I can’t take the risk.

7) Sightron 10-50×60 SIII 30mm (wide duplex, side focus, 1/8 MOA target knobs) $1,100

The upper end of the “regular” (i.e. crosshair) scopes, this would not ordinarily excite me except for that 50x magnification and massive 60mm bell (!).  That said, Sightron makes the same model with mil-dots, for a few bucks more.

These, so far, are my top seven choices.

(For those who are wondering “Where the Leupolds at?”  should know that the combination of illumination + >20x magnification puts most Leupolds outside the price range, as seen here and here, for example.  It’s a pity because I love the brand, but there ya go.  Ditto Nightforce here and here, also Leica;  and as for Swarovski… fergeddabahdit.)

All experiences with any of the above scopes, or any I may perhaps have missed, should be shared in Comments.


  1. Get a mildot reticle and learn how to use it. I think the real long range wanks are insisting on first focal plane types these days, but I could be wrong. Nightforce seemed to be the choice of the cool kids when I was playing with the idea a couple years back.

    There’s a lot to learn with it. There is a huge difference between shooting off the bench at known distances, and doing your own ranging work at unknown ones. For me… I can hit a man sized target and range it out to 500 fairly consistently. It’s enough.

  2. While I generally like Nikon they have just recently announced the demise (abandonment?) of their scope business so I would worry about them long term….

  3. EdB nails in on the Nikon report. They’re dropping their entire involvement in the Sporting Optics line. I’d buy one on closeout for a hunting scope, but take a pass on one for the precision rifle job.

    What stuns me though is the lack of mention of the excellent Vortex scopes, especially those at the upper end of the range. I have a Vortex Viper PST (Gen1), 4x16x50, MOA illuminated reticle, side focus scope. 30mm tube. It is SUPERB. And cost $700 about five years ago.

    Top end of the Vortex line is the Razor series. That features a 35mm tube, and some of the best glass you’ll ever view. With some digging, you can find certain ones just above your price range, but they’re always about 1/3 less expensive than a corresponding Nightforce.

    The warranty and customer service on the Vortex line is top notch, too.

    Give ’em a look, and good luck with the entire project!

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

    1. Another vote for Vortex. They give military discounts as well and their service is top notch.

      1. But will they give KIM a military discount?
        I mean, he admittedly fought in a foreign war, as he has told us in the past, but my Grandfather couldn’t join the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and you can’t get much more foreign in America than Italy v Austria-Hungary, 1915-1918. The leaders of the local Post didn’t agree.

  4. Not making any recommendations here, just relating my recent first hand experience.

    Under “ULD Rifle Reminder #3” I made mention of my current project based on a Howa 308 barreled action. In June of ’18 I bought a ‘Vortex Viper HST Rifle Scope 30mm Tube 4-16x 44mm Side Focus VMR-1 MOA Reticle Matte’. Non-illuminated, 2nd focal plane. At the time, it was the closest I could get to in my price range to what I was looking for. I have always been a fan of NIkon, but did not like the reticles they offered then.

    Fast forward to August of last year. I found a ‘Nikon BLACK X1000 Rifle Scope 30mm Tube 4-16x 50mm Side Focus Matte’ on closeout for $299. Also non-illuminated, 2nd focal plane, MOA reticle. I like that the Nikon reticle is glass etched.

    I chose MOA because I am a crusty old NRA Highpower shooter and (for now) am sticking to what I know. I will also admit to being over 60, and will be dealing with cataracts before long. That said,
    the glass in the Black X 1000 is brighter and crisper than that in the Viper. Profoundly so? No. But it is distinct.

    That’s it so far. Will report back further developments. I will likely troll the Vortex at area gun shows and see if I get any bites.

  5. Curious question: Are Redfield scopes still considered top of the line?

    Granted I have done most of my shooting with the iron sights, but my dad raved that they were the best. That of course was 40 years or more now.

  6. Leupold bought the Redfield name in 2009. They have since been making them on the same line as their own scopes in their Beaverton, Oregon plant. They are leupold scopes with the Redfield name on them. I bought a nice little 2-7 X 33mm (Redfield) on Amazon. Liked it so well I went back and bought another. Go there and read the reviews. One of the reasons I bought the first one is that I don’t know how if or when they might drop the name altogether, and I didn’t have a single Redfield scope.

  7. There are factors other than scope design/performance to consider, I suggest, to wit:

    A) Nikon is getting out of the scope business, if this particular design of scope is still available to purchase, it won’t be for long, and neither will getting it serviced.

    B) This Vortex scope easily equals the Nikon design (and others IMO), Vortex is famous for their “will replace if broken, no matter what” warranty policy, and the starting price allows for purchase of whatever else might be required to shoot at Boomershoot range(s) within the stated $1,100.00 budget.


    How is this example not already on your selection list, Kim?

    From your fellow cheapskate in Tyler. 🙂

  8. I find that Barska (Korea) has quality at a reasonable price – particularly in the SWAT line. Look at their SWAT 10-40x50IR.

Comments are closed.