I am somewhat active on several forums, one of them being SnipersHide. The gentleman who runs it is a very accomplished military trained long range/precision shooter, so a big part of the forum leans toward the precision side of the shooting world.
While my personal interests span most of the shooting disciplines, I really lean toward the precision world, so that suits me really well.
Almost every day, I see incessant arguments about which scope is better than others and why. One thing that I do not see differentiated enough is whether the argument is about fundamental quality vs personal preferences and design decisions.
For example, holding zero, returning to zero, adjustment accuracy and adjustment consistency are all fundamental qualities.
Click feel is somewhere in between since for people who use the reticle exclusively it is not terribly important. Also, it is easier to get good click feel with turrets that have fewer clicks per revolution, so this one spans a little bit of everything: fundamental quality, design compromise and personal preference.
Reticle selection is almost entirely personal preference with a little bit of a design compromise mixed in.
Magnification range is both a personal preference and a design compromise.
Durability is a fundamental quality, but it is very difficult to measure without statistical data. For example, you will hear about a lot more failures from companies that sell the most scopes. Let’s say a company sells 100 scopes per year with a 1% failure rate. That means there is one broken scope out there from this company and unless that one scope is mentioned on the forums we never hear about it. With another company that sold 1000 scopes in the same period of time, with the same failure rate, there are ten broken scopes out there, so we are almost bound to run into someone complaining about it on the web. The failure rate is the same, but a larger brand will take a bigger hit to their reputation.
On the other hand, a smaller brand who only sells a 100 scope per year suffers from a small sample size. Let’s say they have no failures for four years and five failures in one year. Overall failure rate is still 1%, but their reputation is taking a serious hit from that one bad year.
Ultimately, I watch this kind of stuff carefully, but do not draw too many conclusions from it, partially because people who are pissed about an expensive scope taking a dive are usually a lot more vocal than satisfied customers.
We live in a time where precision shooters have an impressive array of options from quality manufacturers. It used to be just one or two makers serving this market segment, but now there is a bunch. On top of that, there is an increasing number of quality designs popping up at half the price of the alpha stuff.
I will ignore price considerations for now and give some thought to what would be an ideal precision riflescope for me based on the features I like from different makers out there. Keep in mind that I do not do ELR a whole lot, so extremely large adjustment range or very high magnification are not critical for me, especially since I can always get a Tacom prism.
There is no one scope right now that does exactly what I want, but Tangent Theta gets close on the strength of excellent optomechanical quality and the best turrets I have seen to date in terms of feel (there are several options with excellent reputability and return to zero, Tangent Theta being among them).
I use Tangent Theta TT315M as my general purpose precision scope and it is just superb. However, since we are talking about a wishlist here, for a dedicated precision gun, I could use a little more magnification. I do not need a whole lot more but I prefer 20x or more for this role.
The TT315M has 6 mrad per turn turrets with spectacular feel. However, the larger TT315P and TT525P have near perfect turrets with even better feel and 15 mrad per turn; however, these scopes are significantly heavier and the turrets are taller than I like. Still, if I were to choose one precision scope from what is on the market right now, TT525P would be it.
As far as form factor goes, the turrets on Vortex AMG 6-24×50 are just about perfect. They are a bit more compact, with 10 mrad per turn, zero stop and locking feature. The feel is not Tangent Theta though.
The weight of the AMG is about right (near same as TT315M), but it is on the long side at 15 inches (TT315M is around 13.5″).
Overall length is not that critical, unless you plan to use a clip-on in front of the scope. Still, given a choice, I would prefer to keep it in the 12 to 13 inch range if possible (or shorter). Of the designs on the market now, only S&B 5-20×50 Ultra Short is there, but the upcoming EOTech Vudu 5-25×50 and Kahles K318i are in that same size range. I think EOTech turrets are too tall for a scope of this size, but Kahles K318i turrets are a good compromise. In terms of factor factor, low and wide turrets on S&B Ultra Short, are good size, but I do not like the feel as much. ZCO 4-20×50 is also promising, ditto for Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18×44.
As far as control configuration goes, I really like what Kahles is doing with the center parallax. I shoot both right handed and left handed and that parallax location is very convenient. Other ambidextrous parallax options are on the objective bell and that is more of a reach than I like.
As far as magnification range goes, low mags are not that critical for precision use, but I shoot quite a bit off hand and from poorly supported positions, so I like to have 4x or so on the low end.
Reticles are a really personal preference. There is not single reticle design out there that is perfect for me, but most Christmas tree style reticles work well enough. I use both reticle and turrets, so Horus designs are not my thing. I will do a separate piece on which reticle would be perfect for my needs. In the meantime, I am quite comfortable with Gen 2 XR, Vortex EBR-2C and a few others.
To summarize all of this meandering, my ultimate precision scope would be a 4-24×50 with Tangent Theta’s optomechanical quality and turret feel, Vortex AMG weight, S&B Ultra Short overall length and turret size and Kahles’ general control configuration. Not to mention that it would have to have a reticle that does not yet exist and would probably be something that only I would like.
I do not think I will get that any time soon, so I will continue to use whatever is on the market and every time I miss a shot I will claim that I missed because the scope is not perfect…