Fielding a bunch of questions on riflescope selection sorta comes with the job and, frankly, I kinda like doing that.
A little while back I got a nicely detailed question that I thought would make a good blog post. Here is what the question was:
Looking to upgrade from my strike eagle 1-8. I would like a little more magnification (at least 10x) and preferably FFP instead of SFP. However, I could be enticed to stick with SFP for weight savings I would also like to keep illumination for low light coyote shots. Like the focal plane, I could be swayed to non-illuminated for weight savings. The scope will be used on my SPR/Recce/Varmint hunting build. Some of the shooting is done from a stand/rest and others is off hand walking through the mountains (hence the weight concern). It has a 16″ 223 wylde hanson profile barrel and an aero ultralight 30 mm mount.
A few different optics I’m looking at:
1. SWFA 3-15x FFP
2. SWFA ultralight 2.5-10 SFP with BDC reticle
2. Vortex Viper Gen II 2.5-10x or 3-15x
3. Bushnell LRTS 3-12x
4. Burris XTR 2-10x
5. Weaver tactical 3-15x FFP
6. Weaver Grand Slam or super slam 3-12x
7. Swampfox 2-12x (hesistant on this one since it is brand new with chinese glass)
Any other suggestions or thoughts?
As is always the case, it is nice to have boundary conditions. Here, there are some, but it sounds like most things are negotiable. As is usually the case with riflescopes, you can’t easily get everything you want. If you want FFP, more than 10x of magnification and an illuminated reticle, there will have to be some sort of a compromise with weight.
Also, the original question did not specify price range, but based on the scope he was asking about, I will assume that he wants to stay below $700 or so.
As a first order of business, there are two Weaver scopes in the list. Weaver optics have been discontinued and with the brand no longer existing (although probably still supported by its parent company, Vista Outdoors), I would not risk it. Besides, there are better options anyway. I never liked Weaver reticles and turrets.
Swampfox 2-12×44 looks like an interesting design, but I have not seen it, so I can’t comment. I will be testing it at some point, but until then there isn’t much I can say.
SWFA 3-15×42 is always a solid option with a ton of track record behind it. It is getting a little long in the tooth, so some of the recent competitors are better featured, but the 3-15×42 SS is definitely a viable option.
Bushnell LRTS 3-12×44 is a very good scope and it can be had at really reasonable prices right now. It is a very viable option. My one reservation is that since Bushnell is blowing these out I can’t quite figure if that means there is a new one coming or if they discontinuing the whole line.
Then there is a matter of the Aero ultralight mount. I have several of these and they work OK with some scopes, but every single one I have seen has tings that are out of round. They are designed to flex a little bit as you tighten them, but that means the scope is squeezed in a weird and asymmetrical way. Some scopes tolerate it OK and some do not. For precision-ish applications, I would look elsewhere. Of the reasonably inexpensive mounts, I have had perfectly decent luck with GG&G FLT, but there are other options as well. One piece of advice I will give is to avoid the temptation of going for a QD mount (levers). They are largely unnecessary and most do not work well. A regular mount with a couple of half inch nuts or a few T25 bolts will return to zero better.
Now, let’s consider other available options from the list above. If you are really looking for something light, go for the SWFA 2.5-10×32 Ultralight. It is an excellent scope and I have two of them, one with a Plex reticle and another with BDC. Both work great, seem durable and are freakishly light. These are SFP and not illuminated, but as far as hunting AR scopes go, they are hard to beat. I use the BDC one with an offset red dot sight for a general purpose AR set up and it works really well.
If you really would rather go with FFP reticle with an eye toward some more precision oriented shooting, I think Vortex PST Gen 2 3-15×44 is difficult to beat right now. It is a little more weight, but it checks every button on your list. The 2-10×32 Gen 2 weighs almost the same, so I would rather go for the 3-15×44.
If you would really prefer to have 2x on the low end in an FFP scope, I’d go with Burris XTR II over the PST Gen 2 (with the 3-15x scopes, it goes the other way with the Vortex being the better option). Reticle options with the Burris are a little weak, but G2B works well enough.
To summarize, out of the options above, personally, I would go either with SWFA SS Ultralight 2.5-10×32 is weight is critical or with Vortex PST Gen 2 3-15x44FFP if weight can be compromised a little. I have both of those scopes and use them both.
Another scope I would consider is SWFA SS 3-9×42. To me, it has enough magnification and it is a really proven design. Turrets are good. FOV is good. Contrast is better than on the 3-15×42 SS. Weight is very reasonable. I think it is one of the better FFP hunting scopes out there.
Lastly, if you are looking for something with a larger objective, Meopta’s Optika6 scope seem to be holding up nicely and their 3-18×50 FFP looks very promising. I helped them design a couple of reticles including the MRAD1 in the 3-18×50 that I am testing.