Easier Holdover Hits

The Zeiss Conquest 4.5-14x50mm MC Riflescope.

Zeiss’ American Conquest riflescopes represent a good bargain for varminters, hunters, and competitors. Almost half the price of their European models, but primarily produced with 1″ instead of 30mm main tubes and 1/4″ clicks, they retain most of the engineering found in the more expensive Victory series. While the glass produced for Zeiss’ Conquest and Victory optics are free of arsenic and lead, their proprietary Advanced Optics System (AOS) allows them to cut the glass thinner, thereby reducing weight, and is so far used exclusively in their Victory series. The glass in the Victory series is also designed to slightly enhance color rendition and clarity over the Conquest. But the Victory costs considerably more as well.

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The Conquest 4.5-14x50mm scope can be ordered in stainless finish (shown) or matte black.

The move to holdover hash marks and ranging reticle designs has forced nearly every riflescope manufacturer to come up with innovative designs that lend a significant amount of flexibility to riflescopes. Not to be outdone, Zeiss enlisted the genius of two well-known American innovators, Mickey Fowler and Gerald Perry. Holdover systems are certainly not new, and creative ways to approach the opportunity surface every year. Simple is good. On the other hand, simple does not always solve all the opportunities you might like to take advantage of.

The old Mil-Dot system, for example, is simple but sometimes a bit difficult to learn. Some reticles go to the other extreme, making the image look like a Venetian blind. Neither is bad, and some users who practice often accomplish phenomenal things with them.

For the average shooter, a system that accomplishes his needs in a simple to understand and apply way, who has not the time to practice weekly or possibly even monthly, the reticle system must work the way he thinks. It has to be intuitive. As an engineer, I have seen the rise of sophisticated computer software replace the old “by hand” method to accomplish the mathematics required to solve problems requiring billions of calculations. Some of them arrive at my office with manuals that would intimidate Einstein (Well… maybe not). But some are completely intuitive and use input data the way engineers were taught to think. The manual often sets on the shelf, gathering dust as the user completes design after design.

In my humble opinion, the same should hold true for shooters. The progress taking us far beyond the old plex reticle is as much a boon for the shooter as computer software is for the engineer. Thirty years ago, the engineer had to make many conservative assumptions in two dimensions to complete a design.

It would take him months of calculations. Once done there simply was not time to look at five or six alternatives or even one more, searching for the best and most economic solution. Today, the same problems are completed in three dimensions without conservative assumptions and done so in milliseconds. Alternatives can be explored and exhausted, looking for the best and least expensive design, all the while taking much less time than the old methods.

This same technology is now available for designing optics and interior and exterior ballistics, making it fast and simple for the shooter to obtain data he can be use in the field. Now the shooter need not make mathematical calculations in the field, hold over the target in space in some empty quadrant of the image, use guess work, or even carry data cards.

The Zeiss reticles were designed by Mickey Fowler. Mickey is a legendary pistol shooter, and in his day won several national championships and Bianchi titles. But it was his love for hunting coyotes that brought about the search for a reticle to meet his needs. Those critters don’t often stand still, nervously running or trotting, stopping, trotting again, giving the hunter only seconds each time to range, select the correct holdover or dial to range, and fire.

Working through several generations of reticles, Mickey hit on reticle designs that do the job for coyotes or any hunting situation. Mickey, in collaboration with Zeiss, then worked out the Rapid-Z reticle styles, thickness, etc., exclusively for Zeiss.

I spent several weeks evaluating the Conquest 4.5-14x50mm with the Rapid-Z 800 and 1,000 reticles. The scope has great potential in the field with the new reticles, and the glass is excellent. For an antelope, coyote, varmint, or a deer and elk hunter in the Rocky Mountains, shots are often past 250 yards. The scope has 68″ of travel for dialing the correct comeups for a long-range shot, but its potential was realized with the addition of Mickey’s reticle and Perry-System’s software.

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Zeiss retains the European-style quick diopter focus (above). The turrets are designed
like most target-style dials with 1/4″ clicks and an even 10-MOA revolutions. A side
parallax adjustment (below) is standard with this scope. The dials are reset to zero
after sighting in by loosening the screw shown in the top of the elevation dial. Oddly,
the dials turn opposite of most scopes. They are available in a hunting turret as well.

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The new reticles turn the Zeiss Conquest and Victory riflescopes and the Diarange into superb hunting glass. But the innovation does not stop there. With the use of online software from Perry-Systems’ on the Zeiss website, the shooter can configure the scope’s reticle to fit any cartridge’s ballistic path, optimizing the use of the reticle. Perry-Systems has incorporated the Rapid-Z reticles into their software as well if you prefer more in-depth analysis.

The concept of the reticle is not new. Many manufacturers and designers are using hash marks both below and above the center crosshair for holdover. But the Zeiss Rapid-Z reticle design lends itself to the way shooters think. For example, horizontal wind bars and dots are positioned to account for mile per hour wind increments. To gain an understanding of that, consider the Mil Dots used by the military. The spotter thinks of wind in miles per hour but then must translate that into the number of Mil-Dots required to hit the target. Using the Zeiss Rapid-Z reticle, the dots are already positioned for wind drift in miles per hour, not requiring the additional time for translation.

The same thinking applies to the vertical holdover bars. The reticle is positioned in the second focal plane. The software allows the shooter to determine what power on a variable scope best fits his cartridge’s ballistic path to match the numbers on the reticle’s vertical crosshair. The reticles are designed for varmints, big game, and long range. However, the user can simply use the highest power, and the program will tell him what ranges the hash marks are good for. As a fall back, the reticle is also designed for precision ranging. The ends of the crosshair have incremental hash marks, the tips of which are further broken down. Unlike Mil Dots and most other hash marks reticles, this gives the shooter the ability to more precisely determine the range to a target, given that he knows something about the target’s size and has a steady rest.

Using the Conquest series of riflescopes, the shooter ranges the target, preferably with an adequate rangefinder. Knowing which hash mark gives the correct holdover allows the shooter to make the hit. The reticle makes this easy because each hash mark is numbered. Once the shooter has determined his bullet’s ballistic flight path, and selected the correct power, the numbers correspond to the range. With the new reticle and the Diarange Integrated Rangefinder scope, he now ranges the animal, transitions to the red dot and fires, never having taken his eyes off the animal. And he did it all in only seconds. Using the Conquest series of riflescopes, the shooter ranges the target with an external rangefinder or the hash marks and then uses the correct hash mark for holdover. This slows the acquisition for a hit, but a Conquest scope and an external range finder cost considerably less than the Diarange.

If you use the software to optimize the power setting, the ballistic path will correspond to the hash mark numbers. For example, on the Rapid-Z 800 reticle, the numbers are 1 through 8, meaning 100 through 800 yards. The software tells you where to sight in on the main crosshair and what power sitting to use so the bullet’s flight path corresponds to those yardages or very closely so. For example, instead of using the highest power of 14X, the shooter may set the power ring on 10X. Alternatively, the shooter can leave the power setting on 14, and the software will tell the user what each hash mark corresponds to what range. The hash marks are further divided. So, for example, if the target is at 525 yards, the smaller hash mark 1/4 between 500 and 600 would be used.

Enter Zeiss’ website and access the Rapid Z calculator. Choose your cartridge, bullet, velocity, etc. Now watch what happens when you change the power setting of the reticle and scope you chose. At some power setting, the hash marks will be close to 100-yard increments that mirror the hash mark numbers 2, 3, 4, etc. But as I pointed out earlier, you can use the full power and then make a chart that tells you what yardage each hash mark represents. Alternatively, you can use the dial to range as well.

The Conquest series of scopes range from 3-9x40mm to a 6.5-20x50mm. The Victory, the Conquest, and the Diarange scopes and binoculars continue to employ only top-quality glass, materials, and manufacturing. They are fully multi coated on all air to glass surfaces, waterproof in compliance with ISO 9022-8, and come with a lifetime transferable warranty. The grinding and coatings on the lenses are still some of the finest in the world. They are among the most aberration free lenses money can buy.

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The Rapid-Z 600 meets the needs of most hunters using cartridges normally
producing enough energy to down big game at ranges out to 600 yards. Zeiss
has suggested cartridges on their website that are optimized to each reticle and
for which the reticles were designed. However, any Rapid-Z reticle can be
used and optimized for any cartridge.
By Jacob Gottfredson

Conquest 4.5-14×50 MC
Maker: Carl Zeiss Optics, LLC
13005 N. Kingston Ave.
Chester, VA 23836
(800) 441-3005
Magnification: 4.5-14x50mm, Tube diameter: 1″, Eye Relief: 3.8″, Elevation Adjustment: 68″ at 100 yards, Windage Adjustment: 45″ at 100 yards, Click Adjustment: 1/4″, Parallax: 30 yards to infinity, Reticle in Image Plane: 2nd, Length: 14.02″, Weight: 19.75 ounces, Price: $1,055.54

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