Three Scope Tests: Bushnell, Hawke, Holland/Leupold
The reticle was Bushnell’s DOA, a “Christmas tree” type with several horizontal lines below the main crosshair. Unlike most such reticles the horizontal lines (which normally are used for windage) are shorter farther below the main crosshair. Bushnell claims they represent the average width of a buck deer’s ears at various ranges, so help in both range and antler-size estimation. There are separate range charts for mule and white-tailed deer. Having hunted both species of deer in a lot of different places from Old Mexico to Canada, and measured their ear width (among other things), I am a little skeptical of this concept, but it might work for you.
There’s a dot at the intersection of the extra lines and the vertical crosshair, apparently because this is intended as a big game reticle. The dots, however, are a little large for prairie dog shooting (though I did manage to shoot a number of dogs with the scope, because of a stiff wind which made holding to the side necessary), but they would work well for coyote hunting.
All in all the Bushnell 6500 4.5-30x50 is a very good scope, and even though it’s a big one it doesn’t seem nearly as large as it is, because of the relatively short turrets and nice proportions, and it doesn’t seem to weigh its actual 21 ounces. I couldn’t find a suggested retail price on Bushnell’s Web site, but on a retail Web site the 4.5-30x50 with DOA reticle was listed at $950.00.
Hawke Frontier 4-16x42. Hawke is a British-based firm that has optics built in various places. I was contacted by their U.S. office in Indiana and offered several test optics, including the Frontier, a Japanese-built scope. It’s a 1" tube model, with tactical turrets and side-focus. Since the 1" tube limited elevation adjustments I mounted it on a Remington 700 VTR in .204 Ruger, a cartridge that (in my experience, anyway) starts to run out of practical range at about 600 yards. The Hawke provided plenty of elevation for 600-yard shooting, especially with the flat trajectory of the .204.
The Hawke features bumpy surfaces on all adjustments, making turning easy.
The scope passed both the collimator and square tests handily. The ammunition used was Nosler Custom with their 32-grain Ballistic Tip, and the starting five-shot group measured 0.56", pretty typical for this rifle. The final shot after shooting the square landed right in the middle of the initial group, so The Hawke tracks very well. The adjustments are listed as the standard ¼"; both adjustments averaged right around 0.28".
The turrets are not quite 1 1/4" high, and feature dials with setscrews for resetting to zero. The magnification and side-focus both worked firmly but smoothly, with no apparent slack.
The optics were free of any aberrations, except the typical hint of fuzziness right around the edges. There was some flare when aimed at a light source, but not enough to be objectionable. The advertised eye relief is 3.8" at 4x and 3.6" at 16x, but the test scope’s measured 3.5" at 4x and 3.2" at 16x. This probably is within manufacturing tolerances, which normally allow a slight range on either side of the advertised average.
The night test resulted in a BC rating of 6, very good for a scope with a 42mm objective. (Objective diameter has an effect not just on exit pupil size, and hence brightness, but also on sharpness.)
The reticle in this particular scope is a wide-middle plex-type called the 30/30, but Hawke also offers several Christmas-tree “ballistic reticles” that come with computer software to calculate specific trajectory applications. The Hawke reticles are oriented conventionally, like a spruce tree, and the scope weighs slightly over 20 ounces. The retail price on Hawke’s Web site is $649.00, a very competitive price for this quality of riflescope.
Holland ART 6.5-20x50 Leupold Mark 4. The Mark 4 line is Leupold’s tactical scope, and these are real tactical scopes, not just hunting scopes with fatter tubes and taller turrets. The fixed 10x Mark 4, for instance, was selected as the U.S. Army’s standard scope for their sniping rifle back in the 1980s.
The Holland ART is highly practical for varmint shooting, and since it's in the first focal plane it stays the same size relative to the target at all magnifications.
Darrell Holland’s ART reticle is a well thought-out mil-type reticle, with lots of hash marks numbered so that you won’t get confused about which one to use. The big deal is that the reticle is installed in the first focal plane of Leupold, Nightforce, and Schmidt & Bender scopes, so the reticle stays the same size relative to the target throughout the magnification range. Americans traditionally have preferred second focal-plane reticles, but a first-plane reticle has definite advantages, especially when used with a multipoint reticle.
The biggest objection we normally have is that the reticle appears too coarse at higher magnifications, but the ART reticle is fine enough to work very well. I’ve been using one in a 3.5-10x40 Leupold VX-III scope for several years now, and like it a lot. The scope also comes with ART computer software for specific caliber/bullet applications.
The 6.5-20 Mark 4 is a really big scope. The 22-ounce weight isn’t bad, but it’s a couple of inches longer than the Bushnell 6500. This particular model came with M1 (1/4") turrets, and was mounted on a semicustom .223 Remington made on the Remington 788 action, with an E.R. Shaw stainless sporter-weight barrel and a Timney trigger. The rifle looks like it has a synthetic stock, but in reality it’s the birch factory stock covered in black wrinkle-paint. I bought the rifle used, and apparently it was a Montana rancher’s pickup gun, and hence beat to snot. Rather than refinish the birch stock, I spray painted it.
With this scope the collimator tests were skipped, both because it’s a first focal-plane scope and because from experience with Mark 4s I was pretty sure the adjustments would work at the range. Eye relief is advertised at 4.4" on 6.5x and 3.6" on 20x, and both checked out exactly.
The Holland/Leupold has exposed adjustment knobs, but the clicks are very firm and so not likely to be accidentally turned.
At the range it put five shots into 0.7" at 100 yards, using the same 50 Ballistic Tip/26.0 TAC load shot in the heavy-barreled 700. Shooting the square resulted in the final shot landing right in the initial group. The shots indicated the adjustments measured the claimed ¼" per click, creating an almost perfect 5" square. The Mark 4’s turrets are about 13/8" high when set in the middle of their range, but don’t have caps since with a real tactical scope there’s often no time to take off caps. The clicks are very firm, however, so the adjustment turrets won’t be accidentally knocked off zero during field use, and quite audible, even to someone who’s shot way too many rifles over his lifetime. As with the other two scopes, the magnification ring and side-focus knob worked smoothly, with no noticeable slop.
The view through the scope was flat and sharp at all magnifications. The night test was perhaps a little compromised because the lowest magnification is 6.5x. The BC rating was 7, which probably would be downgraded to a 6+ if the scope could be set on true 6x. (As a side note, through my fixed 10x Mark 4 I can see .25-caliber bullet holes in targets at 200 meters, which isn’t possible with many 10x scopes.)
The model tested retails for $1,595.00 on Darrell Holland’s Web site, about $350.00 more than it can be purchased for without the ART reticle, but I think the reticle is worth the difference. The ART can be used itself as a varmint reticle at various ranges, but if wanted the scope can be cranked up and down (and sideways) precisely as well.
Overland Park, KS 66214-1734
Hawke Sport Optics
6015-2 Highview Drive, Suite G
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46818
Holland’s Shooter’s Supply
P.O. Box 69
Powers, OR 97466
The VARMINT HUNTER Magazine, a 208-page publication put together for shooters by shooters. The Varmint Hunters Association, Inc. hosts several 600-yard IBS matches, a coyote calling contest, and an annual Jamboree in Fort Pierre, SD. The Jamboree is a week-long shooting event known as "a summer camp for shooters".
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