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Steiner T6xi 3-18 vs. NF 2.5-20 vs. ??? 6.5 Grendel SPR build


Sep 9, 2018
Hello hide,

I’m in the process of building a 6.5 Grendel intermediate distance (SPR-ish) rifle. This will be a proof of concept project for domestic LE sniper use. (Testing the viability of solutions between 5.56 and .308).

I’m looking for an optic that will offer good field of view at low magnification, decent eye relief and good low light performance. This rifle will have an offset RDS for close in work but I would still like good illumination and a usable reticle at low magnification.

I have the NF 2.5-20x in both FFP and SFP. The reticle on the FFP is too small for fast acquisition work on 2.5x. Other than that I very much like the optic. Size and weight are hard to beat.

I have an older Steiner T5xi 3-15x that sits on a 5.56 gun and I like it a lot for what it is. I ran P4xi 1-4’s on all of my patrol and GP rifles for years. So I am familiar with the Steiner brand but haven’t seen the T6’s. I also haven’t seen much in regards to reviews which I assume is directly correlated to their newness. I like the specs of the 3-18x and think it may be a good alternative to the NF.

I’m open to any other suggestions the hide might have if there is a better option.

Price point: $1,700 or less.
If you are going to use an offet RDS why not keep the NX8 and just not use it on low magnifcation?

What reticle do you have in the NX8 and T5xi? SCR and Mil C? I'd have thought the difference between the two reticles on the lowest magnifciations would be minimal.
The Burris XTR3 3.3-18 is a similar size and weight to the NX8 and has a wide FOV but the SCR2 reticle is even thinner than the SCR.

Pretty much every 2ish-20ish scope is going to have a reticle that is not great on lowest magnifcication other than maybe the Mark 5 with the TMR, but that's the reason for the RDS. The FOV on the Mark5 isn't great but you may be able to find a used Mark 6 which has a better FOV .
I should have been more clear. I have the previously mentioned optics on other guns and don’t want to move them onto this build.

The T5 is the SCR and the NF is the Mil-XT.

You have a point as far as keeping the optic magnification higher and just using the RDS. What I have found is that the very fine reticle disappears on dark colored targets especially in varied lighting conditions. Dialing up the magnification helps, as does the illumination, but then I lose FOV. When you starting tracking moving targets FOV becomes critical for engagement but more importantly for overall situational awareness. 99.9% of the work we do is observation and overwatch but you’ve still gotta be able to take that low percentage shot if the need arises. The dot would help with getting me into the general area of the target quickly with the optic on high magnification but once I’m there I still need to be able to see enough to be useful.

The NF has the T6 beat in the FOV by almost 5 feet at the bottom end (The .5x difference might come into play there) and they have the same FOV at max mag despite the additional 3x for the NF.

They have essentially the same eye relief.

The weight and size are comparable with the nod in both columns going to the NF.

Pricing is comparable with the Steiner edging out the NF (IOP pricing) by around $250.

The larger objective on the Steiner should help… I’ll defer to someone with side by side time to better articulate any perceived difference.

I trust both brands to make a solid product and stand by any issues should they arise.

It seems at first shake the the NF is still the way to go but I’m hoping some of you early T6 adopters can help shed some light as to its merits. The stats are always a little deceiving, especially when they’re so comparable.
Someone mentioned (may have been @Birddog6424 )that the FOV specs on the NX8 are not correct and the FOV is a little narrower than what is listed. I cannot comment on the Steiner.

The March 3-24 with the FML reticle would be a good option but the FOV is pretty narrow epecially when compared to the likes of the NX8 or XTR3.
It's short and lightweight so could be worth a look. The FML reticle is pretty thick, theres some older posts from @Glassaholic where he reviewd the March but they are a few years old now thus don't offer a comparasion against newer scopes (like the NX8).

As far as the thin reticle side of things go, there isn't really any FFP reticles on the market that lend well to low magnification use other than the Leupold TMR. The reticle in the 3-18 Athlon Ares ETR is probably on par with the TMR (similar thickness) but for most options I'd count on leaving the main optic on 6x minimum and using the red dot for quick shooting. The Mark 6 with a TMR pretty much meets your specs but there are mixed reviews on the glass and mechanics. The P4fl reticle in a SB US 3-20 could be a good option, the reticle is very usable at low magnifcation (it has other problems at high magnifcation) but you wont find many SBs under $1700.

** Warning rant time**
Many folks will say that thin FFP reticles don't matter as on 2.5x/3x will just be point and shoot, I tend to disagree as this assumes you are shooting at a big target (medium/big game of two legged game etc) but when shooting very small targets and/or small game I 100% think reticles should be thicker to make them more usable in the 3-6x range. I shot a 22lr match with my 2.5-10x32 (due to a range of equipment failure) and shot most of the match on 3-6x, it was lots of small targets at close ranges and the reticle was damn near perfect (think it is .06mil thick).

If this is the use case you are imagining, there are very very few 2ish-20ish scopes with thicker reticles, there are even very few 2ish-15ish scopes that have suitable reticles, your options are either an LVPO (with obvious limits on magnifciation) or run a 3-18ish scope leaving it on 6x or higher and using the red dot for close range/quick shots.
**Rant over**

Glassaholic is probably your man to follow (you can search for his posts) as he has spent a lot of time reviewing scopes in the 2ish-20ish range.
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@Glassaholic where he reviewd the March but they are a few years old now thus don't offer a comparasion against newer scopes (like the NX8).
I have a review coming with the March 3-24x52, NF NX8 2.5-10x50 and S&B 3-27x56 scopes, if life would slow down I could actually get these done. Sneak peak preview - I was really impressed with this version of the 2.5-20 (I was an early adopter and was not in the least impressed with that version - whether I got a dud from the factory or NF has "fixed" some of the early issues who knows).

Also, the March I tested has the new FML-TR1H reticle which I REALLY like for low magnification shooting, so if low mag is important to you, there is a compelling argument to be made with this reticle.
OP - the Steiner T6Xi 3-18x56 is the most exciting new scope I've heard about in quite a while (for me) - I wish more manufacturers would invest in large objective medium magnification range optics for crossover shooters. I will be picking up this scope (the 3-18x56) at some point for a build that will be complete next year (looooong wait time from Defiance) so I'm not sure how the reticle will fair at low mag; however, I would buy this scope with the MSR2 reticle (as I find the SCR2 reticle to be too thin for low mag work) and I've seen the MSR2 in other scopes, so as long as the T6Xi illumination is bright enough, this could be usable at low mags.

One other thing to point out, short focal length scopes (think ultra short) with high magnification erectors (zoom range) like the NF NX8 and March 3-24 struggle with having somewhat finicky eyebox, parallax and DOF - you already own the NF so you have experienced this first hand, due to the design of the 3-18x56 I would think it would do "better" than both NX8 and March in this regard.
100% agree with your rant! I’ve always laughed when people make silly arguments to justify their choice of equipment. I would love a S&B or a March but frankly they’re way too expensive for this project. I have read many of glassaholic’s reviews and was hoping for one on these options… Alas he has an actual life outside the hide.

I sincerely appreciate your reply and insight. Your reviews are a benchmark for what a review should be. Totally agree in regards to the eye relief on the NF…. It’s definitely temperamental and requires a lot more conscious effort especially working positional shooting. The only reason I’m not just defaulting to another NF is the potential the Steiner solves some of those issues. I am hopeful the MSR2 will be thick enough and the illum will be bright enough (Sounds like it’s in green only which is an interesting call on their part) that the reticle is actually usable. I’m happy to hear you are excited about the 3-18x56 I think it has a ton of promise. It has always seemed interesting to me the lack of development effort put into this market segment. Lots of time and energy go into the long range segment and recently a lot has gone into the LPVO realm but those of us trying to solve both problems get left behind.
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