Shooters of many different stripes enjoy the flexibility 6-20X and 6-24X variable riflescopes give them. These products’ extended power ranges allow them to be used at their low settings for indoor air rifle or rimfire and centerfire hunting use. Dialed up, they allow shooters to shoot spots on silhouette targets or pick their spots on long-range game animals with .300 Win. Mag-class beanfield rifles. With the right glass and mounts, a shooter can easily make one of these variable scopes work in several scenarios, assuming its owner has the skills and steadiness to use the high-mag settings.
Ideally, such products should provide crisp looks at targets and accurate adjustments to compensate for switching wind, mirage, and other changing conditions in the field or on the range. However, some products are better than others in allowing the shooter to see targets and situating crosshairs, dots, and other aiming points consistently, as a recent test of several variables showed.
It wasn’t too many years ago that magnification above 10X was found almost entirely in the hands of bench, prone, and position competition shooters, who would use their Unertls to drill little clusters of bullet holes on paper targets. Now there’s a plethora of products that allow shooters to count the eyes of a fly downrange, including the following eight items, worth almost $5,300 suggested list, that we put through their paces:
• Bausch & Lomb Elite 4000 40-6244A 6X-24X riflescope, $640.95;
• Burris Signature Series 6X-24X-44mm Fine Plex, $713;
• Leupold Vari-X III Target EFR AO 6.5-20X, $894.60;
• Nikon 6.5-20×44 AO Lustre, $591;
• Pentax Lightseeker 6X-24X AO, $836;
• Simmons Gold Medal Silhouette 6-20×44 Adjustable Objective, $646.95;
• Tasco World Class 6X-24X44mm TS624X44DS, $475;
• Weaver V24-42mm Varmint 6X-24X Variable, $480.95.
We picked our favorites based on both price and raw performance, subjecting them to a strenuous range of adjustment, durability, and accuracy evaluations.
For the money, we liked the Weaver and Tasco variables. We also would buy the Leupold and Burris products for to get certain features other scopes lacked. However, many of the other models performed well, and they may have the right mixture of price and performance for you, as we describe below.
How We Tested
All the scopes were mounted in rimfire rings attached to a T0-9 single-piece base. The rings were affixed to a Volquartsen Mossad 10/22 autoloading rifle, which was clamped into a Workmate Work Center. This allowed us to have a rigid, fixed base from which to conduct the various comparison tests.
We tested the scopes for repeatability and tracking by looking through each scope at a target grid placed at 50 yards and carefully monitoring crosshair movement as it tracked across the grid. To check for optical sharpness, we produced a grid of random characters on a laser printer and had four shooters try to read successively smaller characters until they reached one they could not complete.
We also checked how sharp those characters appeared at the edges of the sight picture. With the scopes side by side, we asked the evaluators to rate each scope for ease of eye alignment—essentially gauging the scope’s exit pupil, or how wide the shaft of light exiting the scope is. We also measured eye relief, the distance behind the ocular lens at which you can see a full sight picture. We looked for parallax, an optical condition that occurs when the image of the target is not focused precisely on the reticle plane. Parallax is visible as an apparent movement between the reticle and the target when the shooter moves his head. Adjustable-objective scopes should remove parallax-related problems. Also, the scope’s point-of-aim shouldn’t shift when it scope was zoomed from its minimum setting to its maximum, so we checked that function as well. Here’s how each product fared.
Leupold Vari-X III Target EFR AO 6.5-20X
Our recommendation: Buy. This sharp, clear glass allowed shooting from 10 meters to 500 meters and more.
This unit cost $894.60 suggested list. The EFR is the company’s Extended Focus Range model, which allows focusing down to 10 meters. It featured 1/4-minute adjustments and had 48 inches of maximum adjustment horizontally and vertically. The Golden Ring came out of the box with target turrets, which can be zero-indexed with a supplied allen wrench, and a sun shield. Mounting the scope was easy with high rimfire rings, necessary to raise the 40mm adjustable-objective lens above the barrel. It showed minor tracking and repeatability problems.
Weaver V24 6-24x42mm Variable
Our recommendation: Light. Clear. Affordable. Accurate. Buy it.
This $480.95 matte-finish product is the power king of the Weaver line. The other V-series products top out at 16X. It doesn’t ship with a sunshade or dust covers. See-through Polar Caps (dust covers, part number 71671) and a sunshade (part 724900) would add about $25 to the scope’s bottom line cost. The V24 comes out of the box lacking target turrets or the ability to zero-index the knobs, a substantial downside in our view. The adjustable objective and ocular focusing ring operated smoothly, as did the power adjustment. We thought gold-letter yardage markings on the front bell were easy to read and understand. The Weaver removed parallax down to 33 feet, which would allow it to focus down to competition airgun distance and out to infinity with only one turn of the bell. Detents in the adjustments were crisp, and the turrets’ labeling was easy to read.
However, we think there should have been a reference mark on the main tube. Medium rimfire rings raised the 42mm adjustable-objective lens above the barrel. There was not much room to mount a ring between the front bell and the adjustment turret. Testers rated the Weaver’s brightness near the top, and its glass was crisp edge to edge and didn’t show glare. The large 6X exit pupil (7.0mm) made bringing the scope into eye alignment easy, but its 1.75mm exit pupil at 24 power was more difficult to find. We didn’t note point-of-aim shift while zooming the power in and out.
The real strength of the Weaver scope was its superb tracking and repeatability. We noted that when it was adjusted back and forth for 1- and 2-click windage or elevation changes and when we dialed the scope around a box, the V24 did indeed return to zero.
Tasco World Class 6-24X TS624X44DS
Our recommendation: This is a great value for the money. Buy it.
This $475 matte-finish product came with two sunshades, metal dust covers, and zeroable target turrets. The adjustable objective and ocular focusing ring were smooth, as was the power adjustment. The white yardage markings on the front bell were easy to read and understand. The Tasco removed parallax error down to 33 feet, close enough for competition airgun shooting. It was one of two units with this capability. The Tasco’s crisp clicks and the turrets’ clear labeling made making adjustments sure and quick. The unit was specced to have 1/8-minute clicks, and we found the scope had 1/8.1-minute clicks.
Mounting the scope was easy with high rings, which were necessary to raise the 55mm front bell above the barrel. There was satisfactory room on the main tube to affix rings. The Tasco’s glass was crisp edge to edge and didn’t exhibit glare. The 7.3mm exit pupil at 6X made bringing the scope into eye alignment easy, but its 1.8mm exit pupil at 24 power required us to position our eyes just so. On some targets, we thought it was difficult to see the crosshairs, making the dot a necessary complement as an aiming point. We didn’t see point-of-aim shift while zooming the power in and out. When we adjusted the Tasco back and forth with 1- and 2-click windage or elevation changes, it didn’t always deliver the change we dialed in. Also, the TS624 didn’t return to zero when we adjusted it around a 1-inch-square grid.
Burris Signature 6X-24X-44mm Fine Plex
Our recommendation: The Light Collector aperture gives it an advantage. Buy it.
The $713 Fine Plex unit came standard with tall target-adjustment knobs. Another feature the Burris scope employed was the Light Collector aperture. Designed to adjust the amount of light streaming into the scope, the Light Collector functions like a camera aperture. If there’s too much daylight, the shooter can twist the front of the scope and squeeze down the aperture to reduce the light. We found this feature worked well at controlling glare. The Fine Plex Signature came out of the box with target turrets, which can be zero-indexed with an Allen wrench, and a 3-inch sun shield.
Cloth covers were also supplied, as were plastic lens covers joined by a hefty rubber band. The Burris unit was cosmetically impressive. Its glossy black finish was immaculate. The turret covers fit snugly over the tops of the turrets, and fine threads pulled the covers down securely. The adjustable objective moved smoothly, as did the rear focusing ring. We thought gold-letter yardage markings were easy to read on the objective bells’ dark metal, and an infinity-direction marking made it clear which way to rotate the objective to remove parallax error.
Also, it was helpful that parallax adjustments for distances out to 500 yards could be set with no more than one turn of the bell. Thus, parallax wasn’t a detriment because of the adjustable objective lens—except that we couldn’t dial in satisfactory sight pictures below 40 yards, a strength found in some of the other models. As a result, this unit couldn’t be used on gallery .22 rifles. Detents in the movement adjustments were crisp. Mounting the scope was easy with high rimfire rings, which were necessary to raise the 44mm adjustable-objective lens and its 60mm housing above the barrel. There was plenty of room behind the adjustments to mount many different bases and rings, but it was a tight fit between the front bell and the adjustment turret. The Burris scopes were specified to have 1/8-minute adjustment clicks, but our tests showed them to adjust in 1/6.5-minute increments.
We didn’t see point-of-aim shift in adjusting the objective lenses or zooming the power in and out. The Burris scope showed minor tracking problems, but none with repeatability. When we adjusted it back and forth with 1- and 2-click windage or elevation changes, it always delivered the change we dialed in. However, it didn’t return to zero when we adjusted it around a 7-click grid.
Bausch & Lomb Elite 4000 6X-24X
Our recommendation: Good, but not great. It held an edge over the 20X units in terms of upper-end power, and was sharp and clear. The shorter minimum focusing distance limits its indoor use.
This riflescope listed for $640.95. We tested the polished-body version with the company’s Multi-X reticle. Custom reticles with 1/4- and 1/2-minute dots are available for $55. The Elite had turrets which can be zero-indexed by unscrewing a small, knurled-head screw in the adjustment mechanism. Our scope came with a 5-inch matte-finish sun shield and plastic lens covers connected by elastic cords. The scope featured a rubber recoil cap on the eyepiece. Detents in the adjustments were smooth, but positive. The Elite 4000 showed minor tracking and repeatability problems in our tests.
Pentax Lightseeker 6X-24X AO
Our recommendation: Middle of the pack. A high price makes other products more attractive.
This $836 product had the company’s Fine-Plex reticle. The Pentax had turrets which can be zero-indexed with an Allen wrench, and a 4-inch sun shield. The Pentax’s front bell was slightly larger than the Leupold and B&L products to accommodate the 44mm objective lens, which could be a factor in mounting the scope. Like the other scopes, the Pentax didn’t track perfectly, but its error was on par with the others.
Nikon 6.5-20 x 44 AO Lustre
Our recommendation: We think other units costs less and deliver as much clarity and repeatability.
The $591 Nikon 6.5-20 came with fine crosshairs. The Nikon had turrets which could be zero-indexed with a supplied Allen wrench, and a 4-inch sun shield. Our scope also came with wide-head target turrets and plastic lens covers connected by an elastic string. Detents in the adjustments were unnecessarily stiff, in our view, and they didn’t loosen with use. The Nikon’s front bell was slightly larger than the Leupold’s (to accommodate the 44-mm objective lens), which could be a factor in mounting the scope with medium-height rings. Though the scope was longer overall than other models, there was less room on the main tube to mount rings. The Nikon showed tracking and repeatability problems in our tests on par with some of the other scopes.
Simmons Gold Medal Silhouette 6-20X AO
Our recommendation: Adequate, but not spectacular. Other units outshine it.
Simmons, Weaver (and Redfield as well) exist under the Blount company banner. We tested Simmon’s $646.95 Model 23002, which has a black-matte finish and a crosshair reticle. The Simmons scope came equipped with a sunshade, metal dust covers, and two sets of zeroable target turrets. The Silhouette removed parallax error down to 50 yards. The Silhouette’s click adjustments were stiff, but positive. The target turrets’ clear labeling made adjustments sure. Our tests showed the scope adjusted in 1/7-minute increments. Mounting the scope was easy with low or medium rings, since the 53mm front bell required less room to clear the barrel. There was satisfactory room on the main tube to affix rings. We didn’t think it was very bright, but its glass was crisp edge to edge and didn’t show glare or hotspots. On some targets we were unable to find the crosshairs, perhaps making the dot model a better choice.
We didn’t see point-of-aim shift while zooming the power in and out. The Simmons scope had stiff adjustments, which made it hard to judge progress of the crosshair shot to shot. When we adjusted the scope back and forth with 1- and 2-click windage or elevation changes, we saw the crosshairs move with each adjustment, but they didn’t always return exactly to the starting point. Likewise, the scope did not return perfectly to zero when we adjusted it around a grid.
Gun Tests Recommends
Despite the differences noted above, we think products in this class are very closely matched. Nonetheless, if we wanted to buy an extended-power variable scope, here’s what we would do:
Best Buys. Shooters on tighter budgets should consider the Tasco World Class 6X-24X44mm TS624X44DS, $475, and the Weaver V24 6-24x42mm Variable Rifle Scope, $480.95 list. The Tasco unit is big and bright, and it didn’t have excessive adjustment errors. Also, it can function at several distances, like the Leupold. Though it lacked amenities packaged with other units, the V24 was light, bright, and adjusted perfectly in our tests. Its hunter-style turrets make it a better choice for a field gun, in our estimation.
For the multi-game target shooter, we recommend the Leupold Vari-X III Target EFR AO 6.5-20X, $894.60. The Extended Focus Range (EFR) feature allows the shooter to use it as close as 10 meters and as far out as needed.
We thought the Burris Signature Series 6X-24X-44mm Fine Plex, $713, was finely made and was sharp and durable, but it was also heavy—a factor if you plan to use it in the field. The Light Collector feature, which allowed the shooter to regulate the amount of light entering the scope, raised its performance above some of the others, in our estimation.
The $646.95 Simmons Gold Medal Silhouette 6-20×44 Adjustable Objective, the Pentax Lightseeker 6X-24X AO ($836), Nikon 6.5-20×44 AO Lustre ($591), and the Bausch & Lomb Elite 4000 6X-24X, ($640.95), are good pieces of glass, but each one lacks a feature or outstanding performance that would move it out of the pack, in our opinion. We think some of the other products offer more value.