A Tale Of Two Scopes

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Meopta riflescopes — the guys who make the Zeiss Conquest line — but I recently had a little cognitive dissonance when looking at options.

Typically, I’m looking for long-range “Boomershoot” target scopes, with fairly high magnification (~18x – 25x).  This time, a Reader asked me to look at a different use for him — shorter-range hunting, if you will, where the magnification needs to be more modest (~10x – 15x), with the only specs being variable focus, an illuminated reticle and a 30mm tube.  Small fields, deep woods, you get the idea.

So I got to this model, and it ticked all the boxes:

Meopta Optika6 2.5-15×44 Illuminated SFP 4C$650

Follow the link if you want the detailed specs.

I was just about to save the page for future reference, when I saw this option:

Meopta MeoSport R 3-15x50mm Illuminated SFP 4C – $450

Once again, the details are at the link.

All of which makes me wonder.  Meopta bills its Meosport line as “entry-level”, and the model above compares very well indeed to its more expensive cousin at the top.  In fact, the Sport looks a little better than the Optika:  a 50mm bell vs. 44mm, and so on.

All of which makes me suspicious.  A fifty-dollar difference in price would be one thing, but a $200 spread?  Long experience in marketing and manufacturing taught me that every price reduction for two identical items comes at the cost of quality, in some way, shape or form.  (The Iron Triangle is:  materials / features + quality + price = an equilibrium constant.  Reduce price, and you have to reduce one or both of the other two.)  But as far as I can tell, the features are more or less identical, and Meopta’s quality has been superb.

For the life of me, however, I can’t fathom the difference between the two scopes.  My penny-pinching nature says “Take the MeoSport”, but experience says, “Buy once, cry once”.

Can anyone shed any light on this issue?


Update:  From Reader Will B comes an email:

The price delta is in the glass coatings.  The more expensive scope has more/better coatings.
I also noticed you mentioned a 30mm tube.  You probably think this lets in more light, that is incorrect.
These scopes are made to the European style where they can hunt at night.  Hence the larger objective.  I have not looked through one of these but I would bet that Meopta is using lens coatings that allow the blue light to remain;  this is because in Europe they can hunt at night.  All Austrian/European scopes emphasize blue light waves.  US scopes use yellow light (think Leupold) as it is pretty good at twilight or dusk.
The reason for a 30mm tube is because Europeans do not generally have the kind of flat shooting rifles we generally use in the US.  The European rounds have a greater arc to them.   So the 30 mm tube allows for more mechanical up and down in the elevation adjustment.    That is the sole purpose of a 30mm tube.
You will not likely need that arc accommodation in a shot under 200 yards unless of course you have a slow shooting round, so usually in the US there is no need for a 30mm tube.
I bought a Conquest years ago.  The mechanicals were excellent, the glass was a single coated lens and it sucked.  I gave it away.
I have a Swarovski and a Schmidt & Bender and a few high-end Leupolds.  You can get great glass for under a thousand dollars.  I am not rich, just patient and have saved to get what I use.  Once you use a truly good scope you are ruined forever.
I will say this:  once you have used a scope that preserves blue light you will never want to use anything else.  They are very bright in daylight and are excellent at lower light levels.

I never knew the light-spectrum differences between Euro scopes and Murkin ones, and this is probably why I tend to prefer the Euro glass.  Thankee for the info.

Ummm Nope

Last week, Insty posted a link to Amazon.com which featured riflescopes.

Now I am not having a dig at him — I suspect that he has little control over what gets punted on his site anyway — but if I’m going to buy gun gear, I’m going to buy it from a place that sells gun gear like scopes:  Midway, BassPro/Cabela’s, Europtic, SWFA, Brownells, you know the type, and not from the owner of The Washington  fucking Post.

Here’s my reasoning (apart from the political aspect of it):  to Amazon, gun gear is no different from kitchenware, clothing, curtains or DVDs.  It’s just another product category among a zillion.  They’re the Wal-Mart of online shopping.  But to an operation like Midway, SWFA or Brownells, gun gear is their bread and butter:  lose it, and they are seriously weakened if not ruined.

And lest we forget, scopes are a big-ticket item with a decent profit margin, which is especially important now that the gun gear emporia  are suffering shortages of one of their bread-and-butter lines:  ammo.

So while I clicked on the link at Instapundit — as I understand it, he gets a per-click consideration from Bezos — that’s as far as I was prepared to take it.  No way no how would I ever buy a scope from Amazon;  not when I have SWFA and Europtic (which is where I get almost all my scopes, by the way).

So there you have it:  look, but don’t buy gun gear from Amazon.  Stick to books, DVDs, kitchenware and all the other crap they sell;  but keep getting your gun gear at places to whom your bsiness means more than just dollars.

Range Report: CZ 550 American / Meopta Optika6

Yesterday I took the new toys out to work, said toys being a CZ 550 American (6.5x55mm Swede), topped with a Meopta Optika6 3-18x50mm scope.  Here’s the tout ensemble:

…and the illuminated reticle:

…which I would only use if I were hunting at dusk or dawn.  (On paper, the cross-hairs work just fine.)

Now, I’m pretty sure I heard someone saying, “Meopta-whut?”

Me, too;  until I discovered who they are.  Here’s the full scoop, but the executive summary is:

  • Czech company
  • been around since the 1930s
  • mainly makes commercial photo-enlargers
  • renowned for the quality of their glass
  • started making scopes a couple decades ago
  • if you’ve ever bought a Zeiss Conquest scope [raises hand], it was made by Meopta and stamped by Zeiss
  • congratulations;  you just paid two hundred-odd dollars more than you had to, for the identical scope.

Let me get the basics out of the way, first.

This scope cost me about $650, and I honestly think I got $1,200 value for it.  Holy cow:  the precision of the scope is astonishing, and the clarity as as good as any scope I’ve ever looked through.  I was originally going to get a Minox ZX-5i of similar power for about $100 more, but nobody had it in stock at the time and I was antsy, so I took a flyer on the Meopta, and I don’t regret it, at all.

That said, there are a couple of things that irritated me about the scope’s setup operation.

I’m using Warne Maxima rings, the tallest you can get, because the 50mm bell needs to be raised off the barrel and CZ bases are quite low.  As it turned out, the bell wasn’t a problem.  What was a problem was that yuge magnification adjusting ring on the scope:

…which proved very good at preventing the bolt from being pulled back — which, in a bolt-action rifle, is Not A Good Thing.  I had to put a shim into the rear scope ring to raise the scope the requisite millimeter or thereabouts so that the bolt handle would clear the adjusting ring.

The second issue also involved the adjuster, and it was the little stick screwed into it, supposedly to aid the easy working of the mag adjuster (which, by the way, is hellish stiff, more than it has to be, I think, but it should ease up with use).

Well, maybe the stick helps adjust the ring, but what it also does is get in the way when you’re working the bolt — and yes, there are several threaded holes to choose from to overcome this problem:  but what I found was that moving the stick so that it stayed out of the way worked for one magnification setting, but as soon as I changed the magnification (from, say, 10x to 5x or 12x to 18x), the fucking thing would catch on my hand when I worked the bolt.  And nothing makes Uncle Kimmy crankier than when something interferes with him working the bolt.

So I unscrewed the little stick and threw it away.  Don’t need it, won’t need it, especially as the adjusting ring has those deep, thick grooves to provide a decent grip*.

But those were the only issues I encountered at that session.  The scope worked flawlessly, and zeroing it took just under an hour (I generally let the barrel cool between strings, especially a skinny lil’ thing like the 550’s.)

Like an idiot, I hadn’t bothered bore-sighting the scope before hitting the range, and I paid for it by having to waste over a dozen rounds just to land the boolets into a dinner-plate group.

I had no intention of going for MOA (except by luck) during this session, anyway.  This is a hunting rifle rather than a precision target piece, and in any event, I was only shooting one brand of ammo to get everything into the same zip code.

The ammo was my standard sighting-in choice:  bottom-of-the-line no-frills Federal 140-gr Soft Point:


…with which I managed this 100-yard grouping with the last 5 rounds in the box.

That’s close enough for government work (or anti-government work, depending on your circumstances).

Now that the scope is roughly zeroed, next week I’ll get serious and start running through the dozen-odd different brands and bullet weights I have lying around in Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer, to see which one works best.

What fun.


*I don’t wear heavy gloves when shooting, anyway — in very cold weather (e,g, Scotland), I use the flip-off mitten type over thin gloves.

Scopes: Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24x50mm

A couple of people have written to me following my selection of the Zeiss Conquest V4 for the Boomershoot ULD project, asking for details about the thing.

I know Zeiss glass, of course, both the binoculars and scopes, but not this particular model.  So rather than waiting for for my poor efforts to zero the thing, here’s a decent video about setting it up to shoot.  Note the groupings (but that lil’ 6mmBR target boolet would just bounce off a boomer instead of detonating it — assuming the wind hadn’t already blown it over into the next county).

Just one last point:  I know  that there are better scopes out there, but they cost at least double what the Zeiss V4 does — and they can’t be twice  as good, because with any Zeiss scope we’re pretty far up the cost : quality curve already.  And I didn’t have the budget for (to name but some) Swarovski , Kahles or Nightforce glass.  I’ve used all those, or seen them used in the past with excellent results, but I’m pretty sure the V4 will not be disgraced.

No More Nikon

..at least, when it comes to their scopes, that is.

I never used many Nikon scopes — from memory, I only ever owned two — and I don’t think they were ever a force in the scope business, so this doesn’t strike me as big news.  I suspect that Nikon weren’t making much money in that department, despite their price premium over other brands, and as their camera business is probably under strain because of the ubiquity of phone cameras, this seems to be purely a business decision.

That said, I would point Loyal Readers to the Nikon Black FX1000 model, which I have  used before, and which was excellent:  clear, rugged and easy to use in the field.  Consider these two:  4-16x50mm and 6-24x50mm (don’t necessarily buy right now… just monitor their prices in the near future and if they dip substantially, buy either of them without hesitation).