Rifle Scopes Alpha Class Long Range Scope Review - TT, ZCO, Schmidt, March, Vortex

Baron23

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    My comment about the 36mm tube was simply personal preference - this is an uncommon size and therefore mounts and rings are limited. I play musical chairs with my scopes and mounts more often than I ought and the fact that I can't just swap the ZCO with the rest is limiting. There is nothing inherently wrong with a 36mm tube, but what are we gaining with that? One could argue with larger tube diameter we are getting greater travel and extreme elevation performance, but based on what I saw in testing I did not "see" this increase, Vortex G3 has greater elevation travel and actually performed "better" to my eyes than ZCO and TT crushed the competition in edge sharpness, keep in mind that "better" is relative in this case, by no means did the ZCO perform poorly, but given the design intent I was expecting to see a significant improvement over the 34mm counterparts and I just did not see that. When I sell a scope I do not sometimes sell the mount or rings as I use those for another scope; however, if I buy a 36mm Spuhr mount for the ZCO and end up selling the ZCO what am I going to use that mount for, a $10k Hensoldt? When all is said and done, I care more about the reticle than I do about the tube size, but reticle is very much subjective and I tried not to harp on that too much in this review, if ZCO had a reticle that was more to my liking I think I would have more of them on my rifles.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to explain the basis for your comment. I now understand where you were coming form w that small part of your excellent review.

    Thanks again.
     
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    Pinkes

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    Great review as always.
    Do you have an opinion on the Zeiss S5 LRP? And where does it fit in between the alphas?
     
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    BurtG

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    I’m just glad @Krob95 has an inferior scope to my zco.

    @Huskydriver had me rolling 😂
    ZCO is best. We all know this

    AAFF7F28-E1E4-437E-8FDC-8C5F1F289C77.jpeg
     

    Convex

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    These top tier optics took turns placing ahead of/behind each other by a wisp in several different categories considered by a curious and disciplined mind w/an unwillingness to go off on a tangent (couldn't resist).


    Some of the "deep pockets" on here can buy rifles and scopes like candy, and if I had their money I'd probably be doing the same thing, but as a retiree, the "best" for me is excellence that can co-exist w/the balancing act of budgeting.

    I'm not rich, and not broke, but I do have to pick my spots. In my youth, I used to blow money on a car w/a 400 hp option instead of 300 hp, where now I can laugh away the difference in hp because in reality that might mean a difference in 0-60 times of 2/10's of second. In my old age I won't pay another 10 grand on a car for that difference.

    I try to consider this glass the same way, and whether a difference between one optic and the other is worth another $1500, 16" length, weighing 3 lbs. and so on, so for me the consideration of which one fits me like a "glove" and "one of the best", equals whatever can be called the "the best".



    It's good to know that one optic is 9.8 and the other is 9.6 in a particular category where I tend to consider both optics good in that particular category w/not much of a difference between them.

    Having said this, my selection of the March 4.5-28X52 was of course no slap at the other optics, how could it be; it was because the March was "one of the best", and $1500 less than the "absolute best" optic which was better by not a whole lot per the review of the same guy who did this review.

    What clinched the deal for me was the March "holding it's own" @ 12.5" long, and w/a 52mm objective "against" 16 inch long optics w/a 56mm objective.

    Those are the "standout differences" between the March and the other optics when you look at the comparison specs for these optics. Shorter/lighter/less money, w/a longer magnification ratio than the other scopes PLUS a great FOV, and in the same ballpark as the "absolute best".

    That's magnificent engineering that inspired me to reach for my wallet for this optic despite the March being bested in some categories/despite the excellent performance of the other optics.



    Unless I'm wrong about the future, scopes will get better IQ as they get shorter/lighter AND sell 4 less money. It HAS TO HAPPEN, just like these optics have "leapfrogged" over the glass of the past.

    All U gotta tell a good engineer is "you can't do that, no way in hell" and then watch 'em do it.

    The big winner whatever my individual choice was, is there's so much to choose from and I hope all of these outfits stay in business a long time.
     
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    Convex

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    Ahhh...... the Skunk Works, read this again, then saw your Dad was one of the chosen ones; what an outfit!!! EZ now to figure where U got a good portion of your brains from Glassaholic, my compliments (along w/mom too of course). You must have some incredible stories to tell from his career.

    Always enjoyed reading about the development of the cameras/camera technology that was used in their spyplanes.

    Seems like the recurring theme through this and like so many other disciplines, a lot of these folks knew each other/worked for each other/broke away/came back as formidable competition.

    Remember the song by Ray Charles, "It's Cheaper to Keep Her"

    Applies to the scope world, bigtime.
     
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    Franko

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    Thank you so much for the review. It's really valuable to be able to see honest comparisons of so many great optics. It's guys like you that make this community so great.
     

    TheOE800

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    +1

    Also, I keep thinking the right move is to fire up the time machine, go back to 2016, and buy the Minox ZP lineup.
    There were enough teething issues with the Minox lineup that you’d need to go through CS once or twice, but hugenormous value at the ~$2000 you could snag them for if you shopped right.
     

    Glassaholic

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    Ahhh...... the Skunk Works, read this again, then saw your Dad was one of the chosen ones; what an outfit!!! EZ now to figure where U got a good portion of your brains from Glassaholic, my compliments (along w/mom too of course). You must have some incredible stories to tell from his career.
    My dad had some great stories, he passed in 2005, but about a year before, my sister and I did a video interview with him and a big portion was his career at Lockheed, I enjoy watching that over and over. He was traveling all over the country/world working with the SR-71 for quite a while, had some great stories. He took us out to Edwards one time cause he knew the base commander and we got to meet the pilots when they were dressing up in space suits, got to see the cockpit (no one was allowed to at the time but they probably figured a teenager in the 80's didn't pose much of a threat for leaking top secret info), he took us out for the unveiling of the F-117 once it was declassified, started telling us all about surface materials used and stuff like that and suddenly he quickly scooted us off into a corner and said he realized a security guard was right there and he probably shouldn't have been sharing all that info :LOL: He retired as division manager of aeronautics in the early 90's and had been working on the YF-22 which became the F-22, quite possible he was also working on the F-35 but we wouldn't have known because it had not been declassified yet, but he was very proud of what they accomplished with the F-22. I took my youngest to an air show a few years ago and got to see the F-22 in action - man what a thrill that was, wish my dad could have been there!!! Not to derail my own thread, but these were some pics I took that day...

    20190922_CS_Air_Show_195.jpg

    20190922_CS_Air_Show_211.jpg

    20190922_CS_Air_Show_247.jpg
    20190922_CS_Air_Show_252.jpg
    20190922_CS_Air_Show_257.jpg
     

    Convex

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    ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS PICS!!! My generation grew up where my Dad would buy me scale models of various fighters, you grew up w/the real thing, that must've been wonderful.

    What would this country be w/o the Skunk Works.

    Have a few books on the Skunk Works the first one years ago, so when I first read about how the SR-71 engines would become more efficient the faster it went, my reaction was "HUH", until I read what/how they did it.

    Congrats on this and your Dad's achievements..
     

    BigJimFish

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    Enjoyed reading your review. Alpha class stuff is really the toughest to evaluate. The differences in optical performance can be so much smaller and feature choices become much more subjective. As you noted, it's also harder to get a gaggle of them together for a side by side. Much easier arranging loaner scopes of lower cost from makers doing much higher volume.

    On the other hand, it's clear some of the optical designs in the alpha class are not up to the standard of the glass used. The result is that despite the glass, the optic under performs due to a poorly optimized optical design. Case in point, many of the S&B's that are newer and more costly than their 5-25 do not feature an optical design that is as well done as what those Optronika guys did before they went on their way. I have found it more common to have this sort of design under-performance in the optical class than one step down in the ~$2k range. Most of the stuff in that middle range is made by huge OEM's for larger brands and are well optimized designs. Hence the Razor gen III's good performance against some of the alphas. Very curious how that scope stacks up to NF ATACR's and the Bushy XRS 3 as the same OEM makes them all. That OEM produces a lot of different tiers of stuff but I still wonder if all three of these models are their top tier. That XRS 3 was awful good.
     

    Lightning8

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    Great review. Proud of my Burris XTR3.

    PS - former Light Fighter 83-86; Manchu!
     
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    Glassaholic

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    Enjoyed reading your review. Alpha class stuff is really the toughest to evaluate. The differences in optical performance can be so much smaller and feature choices become much more subjective. As you noted, it's also harder to get a gaggle of them together for a side by side. Much easier arranging loaner scopes of lower cost from makers doing much higher volume.

    On the other hand, it's clear some of the optical designs in the alpha class are not up to the standard of the glass used. The result is that despite the glass, the optic under performs due to a poorly optimized optical design. Case in point, many of the S&B's that are newer and more costly than their 5-25 do not feature an optical design that is as well done as what those Optronika guys did before they went on their way. I have found it more common to have this sort of design under-performance in the optical class than one step down in the ~$2k range. Most of the stuff in that middle range is made by huge OEM's for larger brands and are well optimized designs. Hence the Razor gen III's good performance against some of the alphas. Very curious how that scope stacks up to NF ATACR's and the Bushy XRS 3 as the same OEM makes them all. That OEM produces a lot of different tiers of stuff but I still wonder if all three of these models are their top tier. That XRS 3 was awful good.
    Thank you 'Fish, I am always impressed with the meticulous detail of your reviews and you have inspired me to do better :) Your comment about "design under-performance" is something I have observed as well. Sometimes I think manufacturers try to do "too" much and in so doing compromises have to be made. Granted, with the Schmidt 3-27 there was a design intent - create a long range scope that offered a high top magnification but low enough magnification at the bottom to work with clip on device, there was undoubtedly a military contract to be fulfilled and the compromises were "worth it" in order to achieve the goal. One could argue that Hensoldt did a better job at this with their 3.5-26, but at what cost... literally, as crazy as the price is on the Schmidt, the Hensoldt is about 2x the cost. I have often wondered how many decisions are made to compromise in order to meet a particular price, but the good news is technology continues to make amazing headway and we are seeing designs today that are outperforming designs of yesteryear which is very encouraging.
     
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    Amanda4461

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    From a guy who has a non-lit XTR-3, I laughed when you mentioned the knurling. I thought that an 8” aluminum pipe wrench would have been a good adjustment tool in the shipping box. Compared to my MK5 and my Meoptas, the Burris equals the Leupold in most ways, and has better visual clarity than the Optika6 models at the higher end of magnification. I believe this, only after Burris sent me a turn ring for the finger-shredder mag ring. Zest? No problem 🤦🏻‍♂️
    In my search for the next best thing, your review has done a fine job of direction-finding for my wallet. Only problem is, my cheap side thinks an XTR PRO should be tried before jumping to a ZCO.
    Thank you for the fine work.
     
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    Glassaholic

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    an XTR PRO should be tried before jumping to a ZCO.
    Given many accounts that the XTR Pro is close to the G3 6-36 with regard to optical performance, I think it would be worth checking out. Yes it’s only 5.5-30 but you do not need enormous magnification in our game. The final pictures in my first post show me shooting in Kansas out to 1.5 miles in 100+ degree heat, I kept my TT I was using at 16x and even dipped down to 12x for a time and never had an issue making hits at distance.
     

    Rob01

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    Given many accounts that the XTR Pro is close to the G3 6-36 with regard to optical performance, I think it would be worth checking out. Yes it’s only 5.5-30 but you do not need enormous magnification in our game. The final pictures in my first post show me shooting in Kansas out to 1.5 miles in 100+ degree heat, I kept my TT I was using at 16x and even dipped down to 12x for a time and never had an issue making hits at distance.
    When my Pro arrives I will be putting them next to each other and seeing how they look.

    And so true about magnification. When out in Idaho shooting 408s to 2500 yards we were using a NF NXS 5.5-22 on 17x and hitting without issue.
     
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    MarkyMark007

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    nice!
    next Zeiss LRP S5 5-25x56, Steiner M7Xi 4-28x56, Kahles K525i 5-25x56 DLR, Hensoldt ZF 3.5-26x56, March-FX High Master 5-42x56, Minox ZP5 5-25x56, Nightforce ATACR/BEAST 5-25x56, Schmidt & Bender 6-36x56 PM II, Sightron SVIII ED 5-40x56, US Optics B-25 5-25x52
    :ROFLMAO:
     

    rnlzkbrs

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    When out in Idaho shooting 408s to 2500 yards
    Where did you find a 2500 yards range in Idaho? The longest I was able to find is 1400-something. If I want more than that I would have to travel to Utah. Sounds like I do not know how to use Google. :) Anyway, any hints would be much appreciated.
     

    Rob01

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    Where did you find a 2500 yards range in Idaho? The longest I was able to find is 1400-something. If I want more than that I would have to travel to Utah. Sounds like I do not know how to use Google. :) Anyway, any hints would be much appreciated.

    It was out with the CheyTac guys back around 2008. We went out to shoot the Idaho state sniper match in Boise and then traveled up and shot with them for a couple days. I think it was their own range and had steel to just over 3000 yards but a storm knocked it down so 2500 was it. Basically shooting from one mountain to another.
     
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    Glassaholic

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    Great read @Glassaholic! What are your ultimate thoughts comparing Nightforce ATACR 7-35 F1 vs Vortex GIII 6-36?
    I have not spent enough time with the NF 7-35 to make that evaluation. Next year I'd like to do a review of all the new high power scopes in the alpha class, 6-36's, 7-35's, 8-40 et al.
     

    TheOE800

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    I have not spent enough time with the NF 7-35 to make that evaluation. Next year I'd like to do a review of all the new high power scopes in the alpha class, 6-36's, 7-35's, 8-40 et al.
    Pls buy Schmidt before I do
     

    freedom71

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    Excellent review!! Thanks so much for the time and effort you put into this.

    Just curious: Why no Minox ZP5 5-25 in the group? I purchased one in 2017 with the MR4 reticle and it's been superb. There were some turret and QC issues with the early models, but I've had no problems with mine.

    The reason I ask is because I've been considering replacing the Minox ZP5 with the ZCO 5-27, but I'm not sure whether the "upgrade" would be worth it. Any thoughts?
     
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    Glassaholic

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    Excellent review!! Thanks so much for the time and effort you put into this.

    Just curious: Why no Minox ZP5 5-25 in the group? I purchased one in 2017 with the MR4 reticle and it's been superb. There were some turret and QC issues with the early models, but I've had no problems with mine.

    The reason I ask is because I've been considering replacing the Minox ZP5 with the ZCO 5-27, but I'm not sure whether the "upgrade" would be worth it. Any thoughts?
    I’ve done several reviews with the Minox ZP5 5-25 and one with ZP5 3-15. Outstanding scopes for the money, optically on par with TT my copies of 5-25 have been, 3-15 had a bit more CA but not terrible. If you don’t mind the warranty issue with having to be sent back to Germany, they are outstanding scopes. Minox had MR4 before many copied it, still one of my favorite reticles because it’s not too intrusive. Later versions have excellent turrets.
     

    Ronws

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    I’ve done several reviews with the Minox ZP5 5-25 and one with ZP5 3-15. Outstanding scopes for the money, optically on par with TT my copies of 5-25 have been, 3-15 had a bit more CA but not terrible. If you don’t mind the warranty issue with having to be sent back to Germany, they are outstanding scopes. Minox had MR4 before many copied it, still one of my favorite reticles because it’s not too intrusive. Later versions have excellent turrets.
    Just as an aside, you have the best user name.
     
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    DJL2

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    I pulled the review over to my Google Docs for future reference, definitely appreciate the work that went into it. I was just gonna start buying a family of March FX 4.5-28, but now I might need to work something else in there to keep them company ;-). I just need one "tank" and one "light" option, really.
     
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    Glassaholic

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    ILya mentioned to me that Vortex finally fixed their mushy turret issue so I sent mine back in a second time and can confirm - no more mushy turrets! No, they aren’t TT or ZCO good but they are much improved with more distinctive click sound throughout, not much play, lock mechanism is much more secure and can’t see myself accidentally locking while spinning. So all around really decent and more befitting of the price point. Glad I sent it back in, great job on Vortex listening to customers and taking care of them quickly 👍
     

    koshkin

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    ILya mentioned to me that Vortex finally fixed their mushy turret issue so I sent mine back in a second time and can confirm - no more mushy turrets! No, they aren’t TT or ZCO good but they are much improved with more distinctive click sound throughout, not much play, lock mechanism is much more secure and can’t see myself accidentally locking while spinning. So all around really decent and more befitting of the price point. Glad I sent it back in, great job on Vortex listening to customers and taking care of them quickly 👍

    Even more importantly, I looked at several dozen of them and they were consistent.

    ILya
     

    Glassaholic

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    Shuriken (Ninja star) lock, we’ll have to wait for production units but these turrets are supposed to be some of the best turrets March has put out yet, extremely positive clicks with very little play and unique lock mechanism that is low profile and easy to lock/unlock without accidental movement. They are also providing the FML-PDKi reticle now with the 4.5-28, I saw this reticle in the 5-40 Gen2 and really like it, for guys who wish the TR1 reticle was a bit thicker in the tree this is a great option.
     

    DJL2

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    I wonder if I can get them to retro fit my 4.5-28? Though, honestly, I think the plan now is to swap my original onto my father/son/hunting rig, buy one of these new fangled ninja scopes for my Delta-51 and drive on.
     

    TheOE800

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    Shuriken (Ninja star) lock, we’ll have to wait for production units but these turrets are supposed to be some of the best turrets March has put out yet, extremely positive clicks with very little play and unique lock mechanism that is low profile and easy to lock/unlock without accidental movement. They are also providing the FML-PDKi reticle now with the 4.5-28, I saw this reticle in the 5-40 Gen2 and really like it, for guys who wish the TR1 reticle was a bit thicker in the tree this is a great option.
    Ouch my now first Gen 4.5-28x non-illuminated PDK is jealous.
     

    sonichanxiao

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    I expect the 6-36x Schmidt to be in full production in Q1 of 2023. I'll be testing one, hopefully against the new TT 7-35x and a few others.

    ILya
    Yes, Schmidt's representive confirmed the production will start around end of January and we shall see shipment around end of Q1 2023.
     

    Glassaholic

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    Yes, Schmidt's representive confirmed the production will start around end of January and we shall see shipment around end of Q1 2023.
    I used to work for a software company that everyone knew to add 6 months to whatever delivery date they set for release, Schmidt has been the same way unfortunately.
     
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    BigJimFish

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    I used to work for a software company that everyone knew to add 6 months to whatever delivery date they set for release, Schmidt has been the same way unfortunately.
    Lol, remember the short dot 1-8x..... That was a bit more than 6 month wait. Seriously though, with optics companies in general it is usually at least 6months of delay with everything.
     
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