Finally, how does it compare optically? This is usually the most subjective of the scope qualities
and it is often hard to get a meaningful evaluation. It's easy to stare through one scope and say
it looks great. Many people have strong opinions on what scope brands have the best optics, but
have almost no data to back up those opinions. Furthermore, many people claim that scope brand "X"
works better for their eyes than brand "Y", while someone else claims the opposite.
A.J. Goddard examines the Snellen chart at 100 yards to determine scope clarity
during the optical testing of five high-end scopes.
With this in mind, I set out to do an optical comparison that produced some quantitative data and
was averaged over a number of shooters. After a long-range match, I set out a Snellen eye chart -
the kind your optometrist makes you read letters from - at 100 yards. I lined up five rifles with
five scopes: Hensoldt 4-16x56 mm, Premier Heritage 3-15x50 mm, S&B 3-12x50 mm PMII, US Optics
3.7-22x44 mm SN-3, and Nightforce 3.5-15x50 mm NXS Front Focal. I then took eight volunteers from the
competitors who had finished shooting the match to look through all five scopes and rate the best
line they could read off the Snellen chart. I had them do this at maximum magnification and lesser
magnifications, and instructed them to do it both in the center of the reticle and at the edge
limits of the scope view. The aim was to get numerical data over a number of set of eyes for center
and edge clarity of the different scopes at different magnification levels. I also took summary
comments on their overall impressions of the different scopes.
With regard to overall least edge to edge distortion and best linearity, the results were unanimous:
the Hensoldt had the least distortion when considered over the entire magnification range. The
Premier 3-15x50 mm was second in this regard. The differences were only apparent at the edge of
the image. The clarity of the majority of the image, other than just the image edge, was the same
amongst the Hensoldt, S&B, and Premier. When considered at only maximum power, the Hensoldt,
Premier, and S&B 3-12x50 mm PMII were all even with regard to edge distortions: they had none at
maximum magnification. The edge distortion of the Nightforce and the US Optics was markedly worse
than the other three scopes.
Many shooters choose too much magnification for practical field shooting; the 4-16 range of the
Hensoldt is perfect.