Schmidt & Bender 5-25X56 PMII P4FL2-MOA Rifle Scope Review
By Steve Davis, H D Custom Rifles and Ammunition, LLC and Hammer Bullets
When the opportunity to review a Schmidt & Bender rifle scope presented itself, I had to jump. I had never had the opportunity to work with a scope of this caliber. My previous experience in the field with high end rifle scopes has been with Nightforce NXS and Leupold Mark IV. I was very anxious to get my hands on this scope and see what makes these scopes so well renowned.
The scope arrived and I immediately unpacked it with great anticipation. As expected, the optical quality was very good. It does not take long to get spoiled with such clarity and brightness. First thing I did before mounting the scope was play with the turrets and get a feel for them. My first impression was that they were too stiff and the clicks were too close together. I hated to feel any disappointment in this fine scope, but put it away that night feeling a bit unsure about it. More on this later, but it turned out to be me not the scope.
I received the scope with plenty of time to get out and spend time working with it, I thought. As it turned out here in NW Montana we entered into one of the worst fire seasons on record. Our rifle range was closed due to fire danger and the smoke was so bad for two months that it was difficult to even see a target beyond 500 yards. This was tough for us as we need to be able to shoot for our custom rifle and ammunition business, as well as testing bullets for our precision bullet manufacturing wing of the company.
Finally about 2 weeks ago the weather changed and the restrictions were lifted and we have been able to get to the range. The smoke lifted and we have been able to see out. We made a plan to go to an area where we can set up targets out to a bit over 1000 yards. The plan was to run the Schmidt & Bender PMII on three different rifles and ring them out to beyond 1000 yards. The idea for the three different rifles was to work with some severe recoil of different types to see how the scope would hold up to the abuse.
I did not feel the need to spend time with box tests or tall target testing to determine if the scope was calibrated correctly. If I were reviewing a lower end scope this may have been worth the time spent. With this quality of scope it seemed pointless to take the time. During testing the scope adjusted precisely when zeroing on all the test rifles. We were able to use the reticle to determine the amount of moa needed for correction and make that adjustment on the elevation and windage turrets precisely, confirming that this quality scope is right on in its ability to make adjustments.
During this first session I figured out that this scope is not for the timid. When using the turrets they are designed to grab onto full handed and turn them, not with just your fingers. When used in this manner the turrets have very good grip and the clicks are very positive with an audible click that can also be felt. No problem moving the turrets precisely to where they are needed. My earlier problem with dialing the turrets was due to trying to dial with just a thumb and index finger, which would take too much pressure to get the turret to move resulting in having it move too far. In other words it was hard to dial one or two clicks without it moving too far. Grab it like you mean it and it is very positive and controllable. The size of the turret is plenty large enough to grab full handed and still see what is being done.
Now my mind was put to ease and I very much like the feel of this scope. The elevation turret is a zero stop with two revolutions, with the second revolution changing a color ring on the top of the turret from white to yellow. The color change makes it very easy to know where the elevation turret is located and makes it much less likely to make a mistake on elevation adjustments, particularly when forgetting to return to zero after the last shot.
I don’t know about everyone else but I have certainly made the mistake of not returning to zero after a long range hunting shot in the heat of the moment. Having the color indicator is a visual quick reminder when going to engage another target later. With __ moa adjustment per revolution with another 25 moa on the reticle from center at full 25x, this scope is capable of extreme long range shooting.
The reticle is a fairly easy reticle to use with small and large hash marks alternating in 1 moa increments. The sub tensions are numbered at the 10 and 20 moa mark making it easy to find the mark needed. The reticle also has horizontal hash marks at 4 moa, 6 moa, 8 moa, and 10 moa above one horizontal line in the bottom of the scope. These hash marks are used for ranging known size targets based on how big the target is in the scope at 25X. As a hunter I cannot say that I would have a use for this but I can see that it could come in handy if a shooter spent enough time learning it with known size animals. This could be the difference in getting that once in a lifetime trophy when the range finder will not work in the snow or other difficult weather conditions.
I have never much cared for illuminated reticles until now. I have to confess that I thought the scope came with a dead battery as I could not see the reticle light up. I even purchased a new battery figuring that I should use the lit reticle for the review. I changed the battery and still could not see the lit reticle until I took it into the dark. This lighted reticle is perfect. It will not overwhelm the target even in the darkest of situations. In normal daylight on the highest setting it is not visible until aimed into a very dark shadow. In very dark situations even after dark, the reticle can be turned down to the point barely visible, just enough to see against the target and not taking over the view.
Schmidt & Bender Reticle Data Sheet PDF link
We mounted the scope with Vortex 34mm Precision Matched Rings with a Weaver 20 moa rail for all three rifles. We picked up a Wheeler picatinny rail anti-cant level for the project as we could not locate a 34mm scope level in time for the test. First rifle up was the 300 Remington Ultra Mag firing 181g bullets at just over 3400fps. With the muzzle break on this rifle it creates some very severe recoil for the optics. It produces double recoil, first back then forward at a very rapid rate due to the high muzzle velocity. This is a very comfortable rifle for the shooter but tough on optics. In fact the recoil was severe enough to knock the bubble out of the anti-cant device. We ran about 30 rounds of ammunition with this setup from 300 yards out to 1020 yards with positive results and the scope always moving predictably and returning to zero.
Next we mounted the scope on our .375 BigDog (.375-.338 Lapua Improved) running 370g bullets at 2850fps. This rifle also has a very good muzzle brake on it that tames the felt recoil to a level that is very manageable for the shooter. Although the recoil on this rifle is not nearly as sharp as the 300 RUM it is definitely presenting its own type of scope punishment. The scope once again dialed in predictably, making it very easy to set the zero and ring this rifle out to the 1020 yard target.
Now that the Schmidt & Bender passed the punishment test of two severe recoil rifles, we mounted it on a bit more conventional rifle chambered in .257 Weatherby with a fast twist barrel designed to run heavy for caliber 25cal bullets. This rifle is relatively heavy with a 24” heavy contour barrel and a composite tactical stock so it was able to handle the 2.4lbs of scope and not feel top heavy. Again performance was stellar at all ranges.
Now that I had the scope dialed in and zeroed on the .257 Weatherby, I had hoped to take it out in some real world nasty weather and see if it could handle the coldness and wetness. Unfortunately, Mother Nature did not cooperate in time for this review. Perhaps another test session down the road will be in order.
With my time running out for this review, the last test that needed to be done was quality of glass. This is a pretty subjective test and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I decided to set the Schmidt & Bender up side by side with a Nightforce NXS 5.5-22X56. I set the scopes up looking through sparse timber out to a hillside approximately a mile away.
The field of view in the Schmidt & Bender is larger and seemed brighter in full daylight. The biggest difference that I noticed between the two was the depth of field in the Schmidt & Bender. In other words the image seems to have a more three dimensional appearance. When adjusted for parallax with the side focus the near tree branches were much more in focus. The image gives the user the ability to tell if the surroundings of the target are near or far comparatively. This would make it much easier to anticipate if a feeding animal is going to wind up in front or behind brush when hunting at very long range. This I felt is a very usable advantage to the higher quality and more expensive glass.
As daylight turned into dark I continued to check the long range target and compare. My impression of low light usage was that the Schmidt & Bender was better up to the point that neither one was usable. Both scopes became unusable at the same time so I could not give an advantage of one over the other for usable light transmission.
After all is said and done I could only come up with one negative with the Schmidt & Bender rifle scope. I am not a fan of the Butler Creek scope covers. I find them cumbersome and impractical for my kind of hunting. Spot and stalk hunting in rough country, my experience with them is they do not stay closed and you find yourself trying to get the snow and ice out of your objective lens. I would think that a scope of this quality would come with better protection.
The author's daughter, Kelsey, with the Schmidt & Bender scope and one of the does that she took with it.
In closing it has been a privilege to have the opportunity to work with an exceptional quality scope. Any shooter/long range hunter that is looking for a top quality optic for their rifle would be well served by a Schmidt & Bender 5-25X56 PMII LP 2.BE P4FL2-MOA. I enthusiastically recommend this scope.
About the Author:
Steve Davis, partner in H D Custom Rifles and Ammunition LLC, dba Hammer Bullets. We designed and patented our line of Hammer Bullets, a pure copper precision cnc lathe turned bullet. We also build and sell custom and semi custom rifles as well as custom ammunition including load work up for individual rifles.
Having lived my whole life in MT I have a love for the outdoors, shooting, hunting, and fishing. It only made sense to find a niche in the industry that would allow me to enjoy the shooting and hunting.