Optical test of riflescopes

The optical quality of riflescopes is one of their important features. But how different are they? What can be seen by one and not with the other one? How big a role does the brand or price play? I will try to answer some of these questions in this optical test of riflescopes.



We have been working on this comparison and test for a long time and everything culminated in a direct comparison. But we found that it would not be as easy as we expected so in the end it took three weekends. We originally tested outdoors but even though the conditions were almost ideal we were unable to provide the same lighting conditions for all riflescopes. So in the end we repeated everything at the modern indoor shooting range Trosky, where the lighting is really good. Thus the conditions are almost laboratory the same for all tested optics. However artificial light almost always places higher demands on optics than daylight. In any case this test is really subjective it is not a measurement of the instrument. But on the other hand - how our eye can see the image is essential not what the devices show us...


In the test I finally had 15 riflescopes for direct comparison. Of course most of them were lent to me by my friend shooters for this test and I would like to thank them.


We used the testing method from FinnAccuracy. It is a well thought out method - proven and functional. This is a comparison of optical properties so this test is not about the quality of mechanical parts, durability or reliability. About that sometime next time...



But there is only one aspect that I miss in this comparison - and that is the evaluation of the reticle. Of course I understand that the suitability of the reticle can be very different for different shooting disciplines. However it happened to all of us with some riflescopes that when we first looked at it - in that direct comparison with the others it simply slipped from us: "What the hell is that log? It's not lines - it's telegraph poles...". So with four riflescopes we agreed that the reticles are just awful...


The picture shows the EBR-7C reticle which is ideal for modern dynamic shooting because it offers many points of aim for various uses - especially for hold over. And it's very clear and you can work with it easily and quickly. On the other hand if one does not need to use these points and marks then it is still not disruptive...



Another very interesting finding was how really significant role play age and condition of the eyes or eye defects in the use of riflescopes (and optics in general). There were three of us for testing - at the age of 30 years (healthy eyes without defects), 47 years old (healthy eyes without defects) and 60 years old (eye defects). We are all shooters and we have experience with the use of riflescopes. However there were big differences in our perception and ability to use riflescopes. I intensively consulted this with other shooters and came to the following conclusion:


"The condition of our eyes (age and eye defects) play a very important role in the subjective perception of the optical qualities of riflescopes. Younger people without eye defects can see very well even with cheaper riflescopes. But with our age this ability decreases and we can see better the difference between good optics and average or even below average."


We encounter this phenomenon basically all the time but only in this direct comparison I did fully understand how big these differences can be. To put it very simply - a young person with good eyes can claim that a riflescope serves him well although an older shooter (or with an eye defect) sees significantly worse with the same riflescope. With quality optics older shooters with eye defects can also see well. It also follows that a young shooter with excellent eyes is not able to recognize significant differences in the quality of riflescopes while an older shooter perceives these differences much more.


Another important finding is that lower quality optics tire the eye significantly faster with longer observation time. This again manifests itself significantly more with older shooters or shooters with eye defects. Thus when using optics for a longer period of time you also know more about the difference in quality.


These are quite significant and perhaps a bit unexpected results of our test.



Here is the final chart but I have to specify a few things:


In the first part the line number is written on which we can recognize the sample shape. The higher the number, the smaller the pattern can be recognized. And always black on a background of white, gray, blue, green and red. We observed the charts with sample shapes at a distance of 100 meters and it is basically something similar to an eye examination - how big letters we can still read...


These values therefore directly determine how small details we are able to recognize with a particular riflescope. The higher the number the better. But again I must point out that this is the average of all three test persons. Also not only the black / white resolution is decisive but also the background of different colors (gray, blue, green, red). It is therefore a very thoughtful and comprehensive evaluation.


The resulting chart also contains the calculated "resolution" in angular units. The smaller the number (angle) the better the resolution.


The second part is the subjective feeling of the observed image. Points from 1 (poor) to 5 points (great).

- sensitivity to eye position. Here were a few riflescopes that you would rather smash to the floor...

- image clarity at the edges.

- color perception. This is very subjective.

- contrast.


The resulting values are the average of two tests and all three test persons.


We had the riflescopes at a magnification of 20x except for two - which did not have such a high maximum magnification. We chose 20x magnification because it is the value that is most often used when shooting (it is usually stated that 15 - 20x magnification is the most common when shooting). In some parameters a small magnification may be advantageous in others not.


Except for two we had all riflescopes FFP - in the first focal plane. This means that the reticle magnifies as the target magnifies.


The Optronika riflescope was fitted with a Killflash. I deliberately left it on to see how much it degraded the optical properties. And it can be seen that really significantly - because this riflescope is otherwise one of the quality ones. And as can be seen from the chart it significantly lowers its performance...



So what is the conclusion and result of this test? Basically as expected. Plus we gained the significant insights mentioned above. And it has also been confirmed that price and quality go hand in hand. Yes you can also come across an overpriced riflescope of lower quality but hardly cheap one of high quality. As already mentioned younger shooters with good eyes perceive these differences subjectively less...



However we all agreed that one riflescope stood out among the others. Both when testing under artificial lighting and in daylight. It was a Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56 FFP.



Next time I will focus on other than just the optical properties of riflescopes...

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