Two Scopes to Know

Unique offerings for hunters
14

German Precision Optics (GPO) makes the comely 7.5x50 scope
on this Herters U9 rifle in 7mm Mag.

The name was familiar. But I was soon corrected. “Athlon optics have nothing to do with Athlon sports or Athlon publishing,” said Richard Hoffarth, whose company represents the optics firm. Nor has it any link to a Seattle rental complex or to Athlone, a town on the River Shannon, wedged between County Roscommon and County Westmeath near the southern shore of Lough Ree in the Republic of Ireland. In ancient Greece, I’m told, “Athlon” meant “prize” or “medal.” Athlon Optics is a U.S. purveyor of scopes built in the Far East.

To get a feel for the brand, I picked out what seemed a useful hunting sight. It’s cataloged as the Midas BTR GEN2 HD 1-6×24 ATSR4 SFP IR. No kidding. To my knowledge this is neither a military nor a General Accounting Office designation.
Enough parting of the weeds.

Athlon’s 1-6x24 has 3.8" of eye relief, an illuminated rear-plane reticle and a 4mm exit pupil at 6x.

A 24mm objective lens in Athlon’s 30mm tube keeps weight down,
adds free tube and permits low rings.

Dials on the Athlon scope have crisp, backlash-free quarter-minute clicks for positive engagement.

Low Power Perfect

A 1-6×24 has plenty of magnification for my big game hunting. The tube has no objective bell so it can sit as low as allowed by the ocular housing and the rifle’s bolt handle. The 24mm objective lens has an exit pupil of 6mm at 4x, as much light as a human eye can use in dim conditions. A 1-6x has more than enough field at the lowest setting. My habit is to keep variable scopes at 3x when hunting in thickets. I’ve yet to wish a more open view than delivered at 2.5x and seldom crave more power than 4x.

This Athlon weighs 18.1 oz., on the heavy side for a 1-6x, but not ponderous. It’s 10.5″ long and the 3.8″ of eye relief is more than adequate and predictably less critical at the low end of the power range. The image is bright and flat at 3x and above. Field curvature becomes noticeable at 2x, a bit bothersome at 1x. The helical eyepiece spins smoothly, with just the right amount of resistance. The dot inside the eyebrow of a ⅔ circle quickly finds the target without obscuring it. Three half wires at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock help center the dot, should it hide against a dark background.

But it can’t hide if you light it up! The knob on the turret’s left side shows six brightness settings, with an “off” stop between each so you can set illumination for expected conditions, then douse it with a click. A CR2032 battery powers the lighting. The wires, and a pyramid of tiny dots whose utility escapes me, are not illuminated.

Windage and elevation adjustments on this Athlon scope move point of impact a quarter-inch per click. The dials are beefy and easy to grasp; clicks are audible and resolute. The resistance to each is even and there’s very little palpable slack between clicks. A zero stop permits quick no-look adjustment afield.

The 30mm tube of Athlon’s Midas 1-6×24 BTR GEN2 is Argon-purged for fog-proofing. It has a pleasing, scratch-resistant, matte-black finish. At $712, this 1-6×24 seems to me an excellent value as an all-around big game scope.

Dials on the GPO 7.5x50i are easily re-set to “0.” Spin off the dial top,
lift and turn. No tools needed.

German Precision Optics

Another riflescope worth a look is the Spectra 7.5×50 by GPO, or German Precision Optics. Yes, praise be, a fixed-power scope! More so because this scope is engineered in Germany by people who cut their professional teeth at Zeiss and Meopta. “Components are sourced in Germany,” said Mike Jensen, president of GPO USA, the exclusive distributor stateside.

GPO offers power ranges (top magnification as a multiple of the bottom) of three, four, five, six, even eight times! In 2021 it introduced its Spectra series of 13 variables, adding the 7.5x50i this year.

Why 7.5x? I’ve often said 4x is all that’s necessary for big game hunting while a 6x would permit a 7mm exit pupil — as big as a healthy eye can use even in total darkness — with a smaller, lighter 42mm objective.

The counter-argument: Hunters are leaning to higher magnifications now, to take longer shots with bullets that fly more accurately and efficiently and hit harder at a distance. Whether or not such shooting is common or sensible is a topic for another day. But this isn’t the first 7.5x scope. Leupold listed one for years. While it’s not ideal for quick offhand pokes at bounding deer in cover, neither are the rifles most hunters buy now. They’re not bored for thick-necked rounds tossing heavy bullets from short barrels with iron sights. Now even the lightweights are fitted with suppressors, bipods and powerful variable scopes. Offhand shooting, by some measures, is a lost art.

Besides its 7mm exit pupil, GPO’s 7.5x50i gives you a generous 3.9″ of eye relief for fast aim, and a field over 15′ broad at 100 yards — more than three deer lengths, or six at 200. Unless the animal is close and rocketing through the aspens, you should get on target quickly and hang with it easily. There’s plenty of magnification for a prone poke at a distant pronghorn. ED glass yields diamond-sharp, color-true images.

I like the first-plane reticle in this scope. It combines a dot and fine wires with the German #4 — three bars at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Dot size and the thickness of wires and bars are just right to my eye. In dim conditions, you can illuminate the dot with the left-side turret dial. Powered by a CR2032 battery, the dial moves smoothly (no detents) through eight positions. Forgot to turn it off? No problem. After three hours of no adjustment, the dot goes black, saving battery. As with any illuminated reticle, you get the best aim with minimal brightness.

GPO offers options in windage/elevation dials. My sample 7.5x has graduations of 0.1 mil, or 0.36″ at 100 yards. These clicks are properly snappy and uniform. The dials can be set easily to read “0” after zeroing, for quick reference and return. The helical eyepiece is marked, so if turned accidentally, it can be reset to suit your eyes. The alloy tube, in matte-black finish, is 15.5″ long.

The 7.5×50 Spectra weighs 21.7 oz. A penny shy of $630, it represents, as Jensen points out, “premium quality at a steep discount.” If like me you mourn the passing of fixed-power scopes, putting this one on a rifle is a nod of solidarity.

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