Bushnell’s New Tactical
Scope Is A Game-Changer.
When stacked up against Steiner and Schmidt & Bender, Bushnell’s XRS 4.5-30x50mm Elite Tactical scope is a worthy competitor at a relatively bargain price
When I wanted to do some 600-yard tuning a while back, two friends came along. They each showed up with one of the new Elites—with the G2 reticle—mounted on a Sako TRG 42 in .300 Win Mag. I see more and more of these scopes every day at matches and it’s no wonder. The price—in relation to comparable German-built offerings—is right.
With Bushnell’s new Legend Ultra HD binocular, the Fusion 1-Mile ARC rangefinder, and now these tactical scopes, Bushnell is building a new legacy.
The Elite line is well built and obviously part of the company’s bid for the law enforcement, military and long-range/tactical market.
Is it Tom Fuller’s influence as Bushnell’s military rep? I have no idea, but Tom left the Army, having been in charge of the Marksmanship Program at Fort Benning, Ga. (where I took my parachute training a couple hundred years ago), to assume that role.
Bushnell didn’t mess around with the design. They went straight for the jugular with a first focal-plane reticle, rapid diopter adjustment and innovative turrets. To promote these new products, Bushnell has hosted several major matches around the country.
I asked my two shooting buddies for their input, pros and cons:
Said one, “I like it. The Zero Stop is great. The locking turrets are helpful and the glass is clearer and sharper than my Nightforce. But I would like finer crosshairs. I like the 30X. A darned good scope and a darned good company.”
Said the other, “I like it better than another manufacturer’s tactical scope I had before. This one’s got locking turrets and a better reticle, but I would like illumination at that price point. Bushnell’s providing great support for the tactical shooting sport.”
At the 600-yard range, my friends could see their .30-caliber holes on the target. They could also see the 6.5 bullet holes from a 6.5×47 they brought, that is, until the mirage moved in.
To be fair, I had a 5.5-22x50mm NXS Nightforce scope mounted on my rifle, and I could see their bullet holes as well. One thing neither of them mentioned that I know they appreciate is the mil/mil turret and the mil hashmark. For years, scope makers were making mil-dot reticles with 1/4-minute clicks on the turret. But now they have wised up and made the turret adjustments in centimeters (2 mils per centimeter) per click. “Mil/mil” simply means that both the reticle and the turret clicks are in mils.
For those big boomers, they were also nice enough to put neoprene around the ocular ring so the cut above your eyebrow—when shooting prone—wouldn’t be quite so deep!
The Bushnell Elite is set up and at home on a Jacob’s
Nighthawk Custom .308, built on a Stiller action
The scope can be ordered in either front or rear focal-plane configuration, and with either 1/4-MOA or 0.1 mil adjustments on the windage and elevation dials. To set the zero, remove the dial top and reposition the setting to zero. Models I have seen can be adjusted with a coin or flathead screwdriver.
Before any clicks can be made, the top of the turret must be lifted. This failsafe feature allows you to ensure a range setting doesn’t get inadvertently changed. I often carry a tactical rifle across my chest, held to my body with a sling. I’ve had a couple of instances where the turrets—not protected by a cap—have rotated without my knowledge to the point where a miss on an easy target resulted.
Some manufacturers avert this problem with the use of caps. The problem there is the time it takes to remove them to make an elevation or windage change, something done constantly in tactical competition. The second problem with caps is I tend to lose them. Others do not provide caps and leave the turrets exposed. The Bushnell overcomes these problems with a “lift the turret” design.
There’s one thing I disagreed with in the small pamphlet included with the scope. It says with the rear focal-plane reticle, ranging is only accurate at the power stated for the subtention given at 100 yards (or meters).
One of the overlooked things about a rear focal-plane reticle is you can change the ranging and distance amount of the hashmarks by varying the magnification. Once you learn how, it gives you great flexibility. The pamphlet does allude to it, but left me wondering what they might be talking about. Bushnell does provide a rear focal-plane version of this scope for those who might prefer it.
I prefer the G2 reticle, which breaks the mil dots into hashmarks in a “Christmas tree” arrangement. Bushnell offers two other reticle configurations with this same sort of functionality. One is the Horus Vision for those who prefer it. The other is a Plain-Jane mil-dot setup.
The robust new Bushnell Elite XRS 4.5-30x50mm Tactical Scope with 34mm tube (above) is nail-pounding tough. The power-factor range is a bit over 6X. It wasn’t too many years ago that a 4X factor was big news. The large turrets on the Busnell Tactical scopes (below) feature easy-to-read markings and distinctive clicks. To adjust for shooting distances, lift the turret top and turn it to a different position.
The XRS 4.5-30x50mm Elite Tactical proved to be an excellent example of good optical design. Curvature of field was very minimal. I could detect no barrel or pincushion distortion, or any rolling distortion at any magnification from 4.5X to 30X, which, by the way, is more than a 6X factor range.
Only a few years ago, a 4X factor range was about all that manufacturers could coax out of a design. Now we’re seeing power factor ranges of 10.
Resolution and contrast were excellent. The scope was clear with no color fringing (see below). There was no detectable astigmatism at any power. Tests were performed on military charts made for the purpose.
I have made the following statements before, but I think they are worth repeating.
In a short length, large objective, “fast” optical system, high-index glasses are utilized to minimize the radius requirements that assist in controlling optical aberration. High-index glasses tend to separate the wavelengths more than low-index glasses do, making correction of this separation more challenging. Because of this, these glass types and radii—especially in the objective lenses—combine to generate a residual secondary spectrum.
As is prevalent with large objective, “fast” optical systems, the secondary spectrum often dominates near the edge of the exit pupil. However, it should also be viewable while looking at a high-contrast “white and black” target when moving your head away from—and toward—the exit pupil along the axis of the scope. In this case, the center of the field of view will tint toward yellow on the inboard side and towards blue on the outboard side of the exit pupil.
The Plain-Jane mil-dot reticle (left) is one option with the Elite Tactical. The G2 reticle (right) not
only provides holdover and ranging references, but can also be used for windage. If you use ballistic
software, the marks will work for any bullet at any velocity.
Side-to-side movement in the exit pupil does the same thing in viewing the secondary spectrum. Typically, when you move your head to the left, the edges of a high-contrast target tints towards the blue near the center of the field of view. It tints toward the yellow, away from the center of the field of view.
The Bushnell Elite Tactical does display this phenomenon. However, it is a problem with almost any scope in this class. I had another very expensive tactical scope with me during the tests that displayed the same tinting when I moved my head from side to side and up and down. However, when you keep your head in the proper position, no such tinting can be seen.
Bushnell now has 12 other tactical scopes in their lineup from the 1-6.5x24mm to those progressing up in power to the one featured in this article. Several reticle configurations are featured throughout, covering CQB to long range and everything in between.
If you can’t find what you want from that lineup, I would be very surprised.
By Jacob Gottfredson
XRS Elite Tactical
Maker: Bushnell Corporation
Tube Diameter: 34mm
Weight: 37 ounces
Length: 10.2 inches
Click Value: .34 inches
Internal Adj. Range: 50 inches elevation & windage
Reticle: G2 (as tested)