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General & offtopic posts which does not fit in any other catagories.
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A Quick Overview of Brands
BSA took the low-end scope market by storm in the late 1990's with their OEM branded scopes. Their current lineup features high powered target scopes from Japan and the rest from PRC. I've only had one BSA scope. It's not available any more (on the US market, anyway). It was a 24x "Target" scope (non-zoom). I was following my own advice about simpler scopes being sturdier. It came new with 3 images. I returned it unused and got my money back.
BSA is remarkable in marketing the first non-toy scope with plastic lenses (the Deerhunter). (This has been corrected in later models). BSA is credited with helping drive Tasco into liquidation by capturing the low end of the market, for whatever that is worth.
Burris uses US-made fully multi-coated optics on all of their scopes now. Their Compact scopes were the last ones listed as US made but not 100% US parts, so I suspect they used imported optics. As of their 1997 catalog, they've moved entirely to US made components for all scopes. They have put a lot of work into Reticle position integrity, including a "Posi-Lock" system that locks those crosshairs in place after sighting-in. Burris and Pentax scopes share a lot of technology. Pentax has licensed the reticle locking technology, and Burris currently makes the Pentax branded scopes for the US market.
Burris makes several lines of scopes. The Fullfield series is gone as of their 2003 catalog, replaced by the Fullfield II series, and you can get closeout prices if you shop around. These are their standard level scopes and both feature fully multicoated lenses made in the US. The older Fullfield (non-II) scopes have a very forward-mounted adjustment turret. This creates problems with some rifle mounting systems (front ring interference) and solves problems with others (windage turret blocking the ejection port). They are also known for having a critical eye relief.
The Fullfield II designs correct some of the shortcomings of the earlier Fullfields. Optically, the eye relief is not as short or critical as before. The adjustment turret is placed more in the center than older Fullfields. They also weigh-in several ounces lighter.
Burris Compact scopes approximate Fullfield quality levels, and include a 3x-9x32mm, the very popular 6x HBR (Hunter Bench Rest) II and the original LER (Long Eye Relief) Scout scopes.
In 2003 Burris announced that the Signature Series was being upgraded to Signature Select. The Sig. Select models feature the more central adjustment turret that was already appearing on some more recent Signature models. The look of the Power and Objective adjustment rings have changed. They still have the usual Signature features of Hi-Lume fully multicoated lenses and larger internal lenses the most scopes.
Until 2003 the Signature line of scopes was Burris' top of the line 1" tube scopes. They have 40% larger internal lenses than either of the Fullfield series. The glass lenses have a higher level of polish as well. The adjustment mechanism is the same. All the Signature scopes are newer models that incorporate Computer Aided Design. However, some of the older Signature models still have the very forward turret and suffer from very critical and/or short eye relief. All Burris scopes are rated for airgun use, but scopes of either line with an R/A designation can focus at very close range, which is useful for airgun and rimfire competition. Burris also offers various specialty and handgun scopes.
At the very top are Burris Black Diamond and Mr. T scopes. Basically the same design, these feature 30mm tubes, large 50mm objectives, and a 4-times power adjustment range. Mr. T scopes have Titanium scope bodies and scratch-resistant lens coatings. As of 2002, some Black Diamond scopes are available with the hard lens coating as well. BD are heavy scopes and Mr. T's are not much better, but then most 30mm/56mm scopes are no lightweights.
Two unique features of Burris-made scopes are the Posi-Lock and Light Collector. The Posi-Lock is intended for high recoil rifles and locks the reticle in place to avoid float. It makes adjustments more tedious, as one has to unlock, adjust, and relock, rather than just adjust. As such it is more favored by big game hunters than competitors, varmint hunters, and other knob-turners.
The Light Collector is misnamed and does just the opposite. It is a dilating iris much in the fashion of the iris in a 35mm SLR that controls the F-Stop. It was designed to reduce glare on bright days or when viewing towards the setting or rising sun. It may also have the affect of increasing depth of field when dialed-down. I hope to report on personal impressions of both of these features soon.
In 2003 Burris announced the Euro Diamond line, featuring their Hi-Lume fully multicoated lenses, 4x power range (most), and European fast-focus style eyepiece. Priced on a par with Signatures, it is unclear exactly where this scope fits in the lineup.
Bushnell started out with an excellent reputation for sturdy, clear Japanese scopes for affordable prices. Affordable back then meant $40 in the early 1950's, which would make it a several hundred dollar scope today. The ScopeChief line was their high-end model for many years (it has recently been reintroduced). Quality of modern Bushnell scopes are directly proportional to their price. The Sportview and Sharpshooter models of a few years ago represented the nadir of Bushnell quality.
Bushnell merged with or bought out Bausch & Lomb in 1973, and B&L stopped selling riflescopes within a few years. The B&L name was used by Bushnell Sports Optics for their Elite Series 3000 & 4000 rifle scopes through the Nineties, made by Light Optical Works. The old 4000 series 6.5x-24x40mm scope has an excellent reputation in benchrest competitions.
Somewhere along the line Bushnell became Bushnell Performance Optics and is no longer associated with Bosch & Lomb. When changing to the Bushnell brand around 2001 they added 200 to the Elite model number, added an anti-fog lens coating feature, and renamed them Bushnell. (I'm not sure who makes the new Bushnell 4200's).
Confusion also finds its way into Bushnell/B&L's marketing, who claimed that that the two extra lenses in the elite 4000 improved resolution. the confusion continued into the elite 4200 introduction but seems to have stopped recently (can't find it anymore on their web page). How anyone can think that any good (beyond refraction) happens when light goes through more glass, is beyond me. Recently Bushnell acquired Tasco, who had stopped operation due to cashflow problems.
Bausch & Lomb
Bausch & Lomb made very high quality rifle scopes in Rochester, New York through the 50's and 60's, with prices in the $100-$200 range when that represented a week's paycheck for a professional. These scopes all have the prefix Bal in their name and are usually external adjustment scopes (windage and elevation adjusted with the mounts). These models were discontinued after b&l merged with bushnell in 1973.
Bushnell has announced that their name has better name recognition to hunters (as a cuss word?), so the B&L elite models have been renamed to Bushnell. A more likely explanation is they just lost the rights to use the B&L name. Long a standard of quality amongst the hard to differentiate imports, it looks like the Bausch & Lomb name is now dead in the riflescope marketplace.
People's Republic of China scopes hit the market in the late 1990's with brands like American Eagle, Blazer (Simmons), Leapers, Norinco and Red Star, establishing new lows in both price point and quality. I predicted familiar brand names would soon take over, and they did. Tasco, Simmons, BSA and others are now marketing branded PRC scopes as their lowest-end models.
Colt's branded M16 scopes (1997 Shot Show intro) were made by Hakko. In the grand tradtion of firearm branded scopes, we can only ask, where are they now?
Eastern European scopes are coming onto the market from IOR Valdada, Docter Optik in the former East Germany, and Meopta in the Czech Republic. The first introductions combined interesting features and some anachronisms, but product lines are quickly becoming westernized. Docter Optik was that part of pre-WWII Zeiss (Zeiss-Jena) that got caught in Eastern Germany after WWII. After reunification they were forced to change their name.
Nikon is a relative late-comer to the US riflescope market. Original scopes were made in Japan and established a good reputation. Current production of their Buckmaster's model is in the Philippines. A recent introduction of a Titanium model shows they are hip to the latest trends.
The current (2004) Nikon riflescope lineup has the Tactical, Monarch Gold and Titanium models on top, followed by the Monarch at the middle, then the Buckmasters and then the Prostaff at the bottom.
Leupold is known for its fantastic customer service, providing lifetime maintenance and repair of their products, usually for no charge. They define the middle and middle-high end of the market, and are the usual standard of price comparison for low-end and low-middle-end value competitors. Leupold scopes typically feature more eye relief and less critical eye relief than other brands, making them very popular with hunters. Feature for feature, they do not appear to compare price-wise to import scopes, and some European scope fanciers hold them in disdain compared to their own (pricey) optics. Nonetheless they've built a fanatical following with a combination of great service, sturdy, reliable scopes and attainable prices.
The Leupold optics line-up is extensive. Their low, middle, and middle-high end scope lines are currently the Rifleman and VX-I, VX-II, and VX-III. In 2004 Leupold announced Vari-X III will soon be replace by the VX-III. Their high end is the LPS. I'll discuss the line-up from lowest to highest.
VX-I and Rifleman
The low price level VX-I scopes, introduced in 2002, are essentially the few remaining survivors of what used to be the Vari-X II lineup. The initial VX-I was limited to 2-7x33mm, 3-9x40mm, and 4-12x40mm models in Gloss with Duplex reticles only. Initial VX-I features were the same dated technology of the discontinued Vari-X II, including friction (click-less) adjustments, 3 piece bodies, and a good (if not great) Magnesium Fluoride (MgF2) fully single-coated lens system. In 2003 Matte was added, and "industry-standard" multi-coating added to Objective and Ocular lenses. Despite their dated 3 peice tube construction, these scopes have the same excellent durability reputation as their Vari-X II predecessors.
About the same time as this multicoating change, the Rifleman scope line was introduced. With the same limited number of models available, Rifleman scopes are only available in Matte and have fully MgF2 single coated lenses and friction adjustments. In other words, they are the original Vari-X II's in Matte. Rifleman scopes are Leupold Golden Ring products, meaning they have the lifetime warranty, however they are not eligible for reticle upgrades like the VX-I. They are only available in the same sizes as VX-I's.
Though now completely phased out, Vari-X II scopes deserve mention because of their high value and desirability on the used market. Vari-X II scopes typically had friction (click-less) adjustments, 3 piece bodies, and a good (if not great) Magnesium Fluoride (MgF2) fully single-coated lens system. While a few models featured 1/2 minute adjustment clicks (a varmint model and a 3x-9x40mm tactical model), this line-up was very long in the tooth when finally replaced in 2002. The Vari-X II lineup was extensive, and still commands near-new prices in the used marketplace. This is easier to understand when you realize that Vari-X II's are Golden Ring products, and are still covered by Leupold's lifetime warranty.
The replacement line-up for Vari-X II is the Leupold VX-II. The original VX-II lineup was brought out in 2002-2003 and featured Multi-Coat IV multicoated (8 layer multicoated objective and ocular lenses with MgFl2 single coated internal lenses) with 1/4MOA clicks. Except for the 1x-4x20mm, they all had a 3-fold power range. Light transmission for these VX-II models runs about 86%.
In January 2004 Leupold announced a move to fully multicoated lenses across the VX-II line. This move was probably necessary because the scopes did not appear to compete feature-for-feature with imported scopes costing half as much. If you are shopping for a VX-II, you should be sure which model you're getting- old (multi-coated) or new (fully multi-coated). Here's a list of the Old Leupold VX-II scope model numbers. The VX-II line-up is extensive and growing.
Vari-X III and VX-III
Vari-X III's were Leupold's first generation of computer designed scopes, and ran a hundred or two more dollars than the Vari-X II's. Vari-X III scopes have fully multi-coated lenses and at least 1/4" click adjustments, using Leupold's 8-layer Multi-Coat IV system. All Vari-X III scopes start with a fractional lower power (like 3.5x) and have an approximate 3-times zoom range. Target model scopes have various features including 1/8MOA clicks, tall target knobs, special reticles, etc. Light transmission figures run about 92%.
VX-III scopes were introduced in January of 2004 and looked... remarkably identical to the Vari-X III's they replaced, item for item. Some additional features were added, like a new Boone & Crocket game reticle, and finger-adjustable knobs (the coin slot is gone). Fast Focus eyepieces, which have been popping up on some Vari-X III's, are now standard for all non-illuminated VX-III's. Side Focus (Adjustable Objective) comes on 30mm tube VX-III's. The Vari-X III LR (Long Range) M1 and M3 scopes have been bumped up to the Mark 4 line-up and renamed LR/T (Long Range/Tactical). Since these are 30mm body scopes (like Mark 4's) with low profile target knobs (like Mark 4's) and side focus/parallax adjustments (like Mark 4's) and blacked-out Golden Rings (like Mark 4's), this name change might make sense. Leupold claims up to 98% light transmission for VX-III scopes, which is pretty much the theoretical maximum.
Fixed Power M8
M8 scopes are all fixed-power, but also have a mix of features. All the 2.5x and 4x scopes are fully single-coated and have friction adjustments, while the 6x scopes are a mix of fully single-coated (6x36mm), multi-coated (6x42mm Target), and fully multi-coated (6x42mm). Only the 6x Target has 1/4 click adjustments. I would expect some or all of this product line to be updated to some level of multicoating and click adjustments soon, so be observant when buying used or old stock.
The Mark 4 line-up started out with just the Leupold military contract model, a blacked-out matte fixed 10x scope with 30mm body, side parallax adjustment fully multicoated lenses and low profile target knobs. These scopes soon had a reputation for being brutally reliable. To this was added a 16x power version, and all in M1 and M3 versions. The M1's have 1/4MOA clicks, while the M3's have 1MOA elevation and 1/2MOA windage for full adjustment range in one revolution. As of 2004 all mil-dot and tall target knob Leupold scopes have been subsumed into the Mark 4 lineup, including VX-II and former Vari-X III models with one inch tubes. This move may reflect tighter US export controls on mil-dot reticle equipped scopes.
Leupold's top of the line is the LPS (Leupold Premier Scope). LPS models combine a one-piece 30mm main tube, 1/4MOA clicks, 4-times power zoom range, synthetic gem anti-scratch lens coatings and are fully multicoated. After some initial reliability problems, the LPS was reintroduced with side focus adjustment, similar to the tactical models. Light transmission figures are an amazing 94%, 99.65% per lens. The original 1.5x-6x42mm LPS was discontinued due to too many problems, and was replaced by the 2.5x-10x45mm LPS.
Other Leupold Scopes
Leupold has a complete line of specialty and handgun scopes, featuring a mix of VX and Vari-X features. Shotgun scopes 1x-4x20mm and 2x-7x33mm are now available in the VX-II design (1/4MOA click adjustments and multicoated objective/ocular, single coated interior lenses). Compact variable rifle scopes (2x-7x28mm & 3x-9x33mm) are labeled just "Vari-X" and are shorter and lighter than equivalent (obsolete) Vari-X II or VX-I versions. These have clickless friction adjustment and are fully single-coated.
Some folks like to make hay of the fact that Leupold imports its lenses from Japan. It is important to realize that the level of quality of a lens and its coating, no not matter where it is from, is specified by the customer, and priced by the manufacturer accordingly. In other words, a lens used by Leupold ordered from the same plant that also makes an entire Weaver scope, is not necessarily the same quality lens.
Lightforce, USA took the high-end market by storm a few years ago by introducing its Nightforce line-up of scopes made by Light Optical Works. It recently followed with the Nightforce NXS series. Directly challenging Swarovski and Zeiss, these large objective scopes quickly found favor with 50BMG, military, and very-long-range shooters who needed very sturdy scopes with a large range of adjustment.
While these big scopes resemble the Euro scopes in size, price and optical quality, the Euros are primarily oriented towards hunters in countries where night hunting is legal. Euro reticles are generally large and coarse for easy low-light viewing. Euro Mil-dot reticle introductions have been slow, their first attempts at police scopes favoring Bullet Drop Compensators over Mil-Dots. The Nightforce reticles, on the other hand, are very fine, minutely graduated, complex, and some can make for a good summer afternoon's reading.
Millet is a long-time rifle and shotgun sight maker. Since growth in this market is limited, they have branched out into scope mounts, rings and now they are importing their own line of scopes. Millett reportedly has no scope repair facilities; they handle all returns by replacement. The lower end Silver line is from China and buyers of this model should test the scope for flare. The Gold model is their top model, and the Lightening version of it illuminates the crosshairs red or green.
The original Denver, Colorado based Redfield shut down in 1998 after a string of environmental problems. The Redfield name is now owned by former competitor Leupold, the name was passed around from optics company to optics company for the past decade. For a while they were essentially higher end Weaver scopes, made in Japan.
For 2010 Leupold has reintroduced Redfield scopes in the new Revolution lineup, re-using some old Redfield terminology like Illuminator to describe the lenses. The new scopes are one piece, the MSRP is quite close to the selling price (unlike Leupold's VX-III scopes), and they are priced in the same range as Leupold's VX-I scopes. Lenses are multicoated, not fully multicoated, meaning a combination Multicoated lens or lenses (usually the external ones) and single coated. One unique Redfield feature is the Accu-Range Reticle, for ranging and lost distance shooting. Leupold is offering a lifetime warrany on their Redfield optics products (but not Electronics). Time will tell if these are good scopes, but they now come from a company with a solid reputation for both products and service.
The 2010 introductory lineup consists of 2-7x33mm, 3-9x40mm, 3-9x50mm, and 4-12x40mm scopes.
The rest this section describes the now defunct Redfield of Denver, Colorado.
Like many companies, Redfield went through several incarnations, though they operated the same plant built in 1956-1957 until 1998. Redfield Rifle Scopes, Inc, an Iowa corporation, operated the Denver plant from 1984 through 1998.
The US operation last used Japanese optics in US designed and constructed scopes. Redfield pioneered many scope advances in the 50's, 60's and 70's, like optically centered reticles, internal adjustment zooms, crosshairs that maintained their size through power changes (aka second plane reticle), and one piece tubes. During the Viet Nam War era they also provided scopes for the US military to help establish a reputation that they still ride on today. Now, these features are common on even the cheapest scopes. Like most other middle-end brands, they used one-piece scope bodies, that have no threaded joints at the middle to leak.
The old Redfield had a strong following among hunters and target shooters. The 3200 and 6400 scopes were state of the art target scopes for their time. When they introduced variable scopes that maintained crosshair visual size on zooming, they couldn't keep them on the shelves. Widefields became popular with knowledgable hunters desiring modern, variable-power scopes, but cognizant of the need to maintain a broad field of view.
My last-of-an-era US made Ultimate Illuminator came with an impressive list of Q/A tests performed on it before sale, and I found their Customer Support was very helpful. In its last decade, Colorado-based Redfield often suffered by trying to compete in the low-end market against Pacific-rim made scopes, while variable quality put it a notch below perennial US competitors Burris and Leupold. They attacked the mid-high end again with the Ultimate Illuminator line, but in the end it was the EPA and sloppy shop-keeping that ended the company.
If you have an old Colorado Redfield scope, their line-up was something like this. The Tracker was the lowest-end economy scope, sold through Wal-Mart. The Five Star brand spanned the middle-low end, including some pricey, high-magnification varmint models. The Widefield was a step up in price and a unique offering, basically a larger scope with the top and bottom cut off. Illuminators competed directly against Leupold's Vari-X III line, while the Ultimate Illuminators with 30mm tubes/56mm objectives took on European models that no other US company matched features with (at that time).
The 2000's era Redfield name (former site linked here) was resurrected by Blount in 2000, and later sold along with Simmons and Weaver to ATK. All three were then owned by Meade. The new Redfield started out with a few Illuminators and 5-stars. By 2002 they had introduced a full line of Trackers (low-end), 5-Stars (low-middle), Widefields (middle-end), and Illuminators (middle-high-end). All were imported from Japan.
Curiously, the new Redfield Tracker is not marketed as shockproof, and advertising admits that it does not have a once-piece tube, either. Such honesty is refreshing. We'll see if the marketplace has room for a scope that doesn't claim a lot of stuff it can't deliver. (There certainly is a lot of room for scopes that claim more than they can deliver!)
The Redfield website(s) and name were moribund for several periods during the 2000-2009 decade, but held enough value as a placeholder brand for people who habitually buy the same brand and product once a decade, that it got resurrected a few times before finally landing with former competitor Leupold.
For years, Pentax has played hide and seek with where, and if, they list their riflescopes on the web. They've finally settled on http://www.pentaxlightseeker.com/, which may or may not be linked from their corporate page, at any given moment. Their Made-in-USA scopes have the same design features as Burris. They even look the similar... identical, even. OK, they are really just relabeled Burris scopes, which is not such a bad thing. Their new Lightseeker II features Burris's Posi-Lock reticle locking system (Pentax calls it Perm-Align). Pentax touts its well-known Super Multi Coating system on all lenses. All of Burris' scopes are now fully multicoated. After several years of obvious rebranding, the Burris-built Pentax models are differentiating specs from the Burris models, but I'm not sure if a 42mm objective lens is really that different from a 44mm objective.
Springfield Armory, Inc., markets a scope called the 3rd Generation made by Hakko.
Simmons scopes are a moving target, and difficult to report on. When Weaver/Blount bought Simmons in 1995, they raised the wholesale price of the Weaver line of scopes 15%. A call to Blount confirmed that they decided to position the Weaver line as upscale to the Simmons line. At that time a Simmons product line shakeout and considerable shuffling of OEM's occured. (Since then, Redfield, Simmons & Weaver were all sold by Blount to ATK, and from ATK to Meade.)
Simmons has a rocky history with its attempts at middle-end scopes. The Gold Medal Silhouette/Varmint riflescopes (Models 23002/23012) were priced like Leupold and were discontinued after many problems. The Gold Medal, the discontinued 8x-32x44mm AO Target scope (Model 800116) and the original Aetecs were made in Japan.
Current production is in Philippines for the Aetec and 44Mag, for shotgun models, Korea, and for the low-end models like 22Mag, China PRC. This is definitely a company always in search of a new OEM anywhere in the world. When buying based on a review, make sure it's the same scope.
The Aetec was introduced with baffling advertising about how aspherical lenses could not hold up to rifle recoil, to wit: "It wasn't used before in riflescopes because it couldn't take the pounding that scopes demanded." How the curvature of a lens surface affects scope reliability, I have no idea, and apparently, neither do they. It then goes on to confuse distortion with vignetting. Someone in marketing should get fired for this ad copy!
Aspherical lenses are of use in photography in order to produce better wide angle lenses with a minimum of visual abberation (barrel distortion). Wide angle lenses have fractional magnification; that is, they reduce size, but fit more in. The primary difference is that the lens surface is ground or molded according to a quadratic formula rather than as a cross section of a sphere. The aspherical shape is obtained either by grinding, or by applying an optical resin in a mold to a spherical lens- the same material used to glue lens elements together to produce the achromatic lenses used in scopes for years.
The only real breakthrough concerning Aspherical lenses is is the modern production techniques allow them to be produced much cheaper.
Anyway, after getting rave reviews, Simmons quietly moved the Aetec production out of Japan and to the Philippines, introducing and discontinuing a curious 6x-20x Aetec with 1/2 MOA clicks along the way. Fierce markdowns and shifting production of the Aetec produced the perception that the Aetec was no longer a middle-end scope, so Simmons produced the Whitetail Expedition as its new highest-end Ashperical scope. While featuring the same front lens, the Whitetail Expedition specs has a very limited fixed 3 inch eye relief, another thing the ad copy writers at Simmons have missed. How could they consider this to be long eye relief?
Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson, reeling from boycotts sprung by its deal with Clinton/HUD, and shakily financed by its former owners and now primary creditor Tompkins, in Feb 2003 has introduced its own brand of unremarkable scopes into a crowded market. Distinctly recognizable by their clunky oversize power-zoom ring, these scopes are priced about in the middle-end market. Like previous optical marketings by Winchester, Colt's, and Remington, look for close-out prices in a year or two.
S&W's adverts incorrectly give a scope light transmission figure of 99%, which can only be a per-lens figure. Very high-end, multi-thousand dollar scopes can hardly get over 95%, especially variably powered models (with more lenses/more loss).
Note: as of 3/2004 CDNN Investments is closing out all of S&W's Performance Optics riflescopes, which can no longer be found on S&W's page or S&W's web store.
Newsflash! Tasco is in the process of liquidation.
Newsflash! Tasco has been sold to Bushnell. They have a lot in common.
Newsflash! Tasco has been sold to Meade Optical. Sensing a trend here?
Newsflash! Meade's acquisition of Tasco has been blocked by the FTC.
Newsflash! BPO (Bushnell Performance Optics) now owns Tasco. I think.
Florida based Tasco was established in 1954 by founder George Rosenfield, and made a name for itself through the 1960's when it sold good quality Japanese-made scopes for about 75-80% of what similar US made scopes sold for from Redfield, Leupold and later Burris. After selling the company in March 1996, the price (and quality) gap has widened considerably, with the name Tasco becoming an epithet for poor reliability and slow service.
Tasco is (was) trying to enter the middle-end market with their Tactical and World Class model scopes. In their last years, Tasco tried to address mounting quality concerns with a dealer counter exchange program for broken World Class models, and Lifetime Warranties for the rest. This had the happy effect of driving them into liquidation faster, as they never addressed actual product quality.
In 1999-2000, Tasco bought their way into a US Navy/Government contract for sniperscopes, beating out Leupold on cost. They did it using scopes from Hakko, a Japanese shop that builds scopes to spec. In order to beat out competitors on cost, these scopes have only one multicoated lens, the objective, while the rest are single coated. These were available from a few distributors, for a limited time as the Super Sniper. Curiously, they are not marked "Tasco" anywhere on the scope. This scope has a good reputation for adjustment repeatability and overall reliability, but optics are merely good not great. This is probably a better compromise for most shooters than another scope in this price range that has great optics and poor reliability.
At the same time it was bolstering its image with the limited-availability Super Sniper, it moved World Class production from Japan to Taiwan, and from thence to PR China. If you wonder why you hear conflicting reports on Tasco quality...
Contrary to rumour, Tasco was not making scopes for Leupold or vice versa. In fact, Tasco makes no scopes, never has, it only contracts OEM manufacturers to make them and brand them. They could be buying parts from the same manufacturers, but that is irrelevant. Optical shops make products to spec- the more you pay, the better glass, polish, coating, Q/A, fewer optical flaws, etc. you can get. The Hakko-made sniper scope represents Tasco's first modern attempt at a middle-quality scope.
If you have a Tasco scope requiring repair, you need to determine if it was made before September 1, 2002. Tasco/Bushnell Performance Optics introduced a revamped line of riflescopes in 2003, with the Titan line at the top of the lineup and the World Class shuffled down to somewhere under the Target & Varmint line.
Trijicon ACOG's are made in the US. A curious ACOG claim by Hakko is found here.
W.R. Weaver started out an American-made brand that built an excellent reputation for building sturdy scopes for affordable prices. US made Steel-tube scopes of the K series (fixed power) and V series (variable) power did not have great optics, but were very sturdy and reliable.
After W.R. Weaver went bankrupt in the mid 80's, the name was purchased by Blount and OEM manufacture was shifted to Light Optical Works in Japan. The new Weaver was then sold by Blount to ATK as of 2002 and now Meade Optics as of 2003. Old US made scopes can still be repaired at:
Weaver Scope Repair Service
1121 Larry Mahan Drive
El Paso TX 79925
I have used this service and they do good work. In El Paso, Texas, good work takes time, but they don't make any promises on delivery they can't keep.
Modern Japanese-made Weavers have a good reputation for reliability and value at a price point between the cheaper Tasco, Simmons, and Bushnell imports below, and the more expensive US made Burris and Leupold. The new Weaver product line is fairly easy to sort out. Grand Slams at the top, Target series fixed power scopes for competitors concerned most with accuracy of adjustment, Classic V series for hunters and varminters looking for typical variable scopes, K series for fixed power hunting scopes, then Tactical, Handgun and Shotgun/muzzleloader. There is very little overlap and it is easy to find your price and quality point. Other scope companies should take note.
Grand Slams have been getting very good reviews among hunters for recoil tolerance, good optics, reliable Micro-Trac adjustments and overall reliability.
The T-series target scopes use a turret adjustment system called Micro-Trac that offers smart and repeatable 1/8MOA clicks. This successful system was also used in the newer Grand Slam series in both 1/8MOA and 1/4MOA. The secret is the Micro-Trac adjusters go all the way around the erector tube, and click changes pull as well as push the tube along. Contact points are made with ball bearings to prevent stiction. Adjustments are repeatable with no need to over-adjust or tap to prevent backlash or hysteresis.
The less-than-36x T-series scopes disappeared for a while in the early 2000's only to make a comeback. The T-6 is a regular in Hunter Benchrest competitions while the T-36 is a regular at IBS and NBRSA meets. All offer Adjustable Objectives and Micro-Trac adjustments.
Weaver's second attempt at a Tactical riflescope offers a first plane Mil Dot reticle system. This means the reticle appears to change size with zoom changes, but is always correct for ranging purposes.
I've heard only a little criticism about the new Weavers. The fixed power T series are not handgun or high recoil rifle scopes, but they do fine on heavy small caliber target or varmint rifles. A while ago Weaver marketing was a little weasely saying the KT15 was based on the same technology as the T-series, without going so far as to say that it had Micro-Trac. This language is no longer found on their web site but can still be found echo'ed in vendors catalogs here and there. The V10 doesn't have the following of the V9, it seems to be more fragile. The higher power Classic V series should not be expected to stand up to high recoil. All Weavers have a somewhat short eye relief of about 3-3.25 inches except the lowest power brush, shotgun and handgun models. If you want a high power variable to stand up to the recoil of a long range medium bore rifle, get the Grand Slam.
In 2001 Zeiss took on the Leupold Vari-X III (now VX-III) directly with its 1" tube Conquest series scopes. These scopes feature constant eye relief and Euro Fast-Focus eyepieces, in Silver and a (typically European coarse, shiny) Matte. Reviews are very good.
The initial Conquest lineup started out with a 3-9x40MC, 3.5-10x44MC, 4.5-14x44AO MC and 6.5-20x50 AO MC with bullet drop compensator. In 2003 a 3-12x56MC was added. The 3-9x has a 4 inch eye relief, The 3-12x56mm 3.2", and the rest 3.5". As with many (all?) Euro fast-focus eyepiece scopes, the eyepiece is large and may present bolt clearance problems on already-tight mounting situations. The scopes are labeled "Assembled in USA" (indicating substantial foreign components) and have a lifetime warranty- as long as you buy them in the US, from a approved Zeiss retailer.
This Zeiss web page has some fairly draconian warnings about "No Lifetime Warranty" and "No warranty repair in the United States" if you buy a Grey Market Zeiss scope:
Carl Zeiss Sports Optics Consumer Alert, click on Consumer Alert.
They should take a cue from Leupold and just offer a lifetime warranty across the board for all their buyers, German, US or otherwise. Instead they only offer it to North America buyers of Zeiss N.A. products- probably because of competitive pressure here other lifetime warranty competitors in the USA, like Leupold and Bushnell Elite. On the upside, they promise 24-business-hour (I guess that means 3, 8-hour business days) turnaround on most repairs, and an 800 number for Customer Care.
Other brands Kahles, Steiner, and Swarovski are high-end scopes that cost from $600 to $1500 for typical variable models. (Since I first wrote this, some of the European brands have introduced US manufacture one inch scopes with lower prices.)
Leica briefly entered the US rifle market with their Ultravid scopes in 1.75x-6x32mm, 3.5x-10x42mm and 4.5x-14x42mm AO, all with 30mm tubes. They were (not too secretly) produced in the USA by Leupold, using Leica glass optics. They competed directly with the Leupold LPS and didn't sell too well. There is some indication they suffered from the same teething problems as the first generation Leupold LPS scopes.
Some of the German ads are puzzling- one states that the reticle does not change size with power adjustments. This innovation was made by Redfield in the early 60's, and now that the patents have run out, even the cheap X-Mart scopes have it. Perhaps the practical European habit of buying sturdy fixed-power scopes has affected the speed of adoption of the variable-powers.
An old trend in German optics is Japanese ownership. The latest trend in German brands is US and Romanian manufacturing. A typical difference is US-made/German-branded scopes usually have 1 inch tubes, while the European made ones usually have 30mm tubes.
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