This is the February 2010 article written for opticstalk.com by John Barsness, co-author of the quarterly on-line magazine Rifle Loony News, available through the website www.riflesandrecipes.com.
The two new riflescopes reviewed this month are opposites in many ways. The much-anticipated Leica is pretty much a traditional hunting scope, while the Burris Eliminator LaserScope combines laser and electronic technology to provide an aiming point that automatically compensates for range out to 500 yards.
Let’s do things alphabetically and look at the Burris first. At first glance it looks like the laser rangefinding scope Burris has had on the market for a few years now. Unlike conventional scopes, with a tube between two bells, it’s a modernistic design with built-in clamps that fit Weaver/Picatinny bases. The Eliminator is a 4-12x42 variable, and weighs 27 ounces.
A push-button on the side of the scope turns on the laser. This works like any other rangefinder except that the center of the reticle does dual-duty as the aiming point for both scope and laser. The range is displayed in an LED in the view of the scope—and simultaneously one of a series of LED dots located from the center of the reticle downward along the lower crosshair lights up.
The lighted dot is the aiming point. Theoretically, you just put this on the target and pull the trigger, since the scope compensates for both range and up-and-down angle of shots out to 500 yards. I field-tested it on two different days, first on a level shooting range out to 500+ yards, and then in a local canyon where shots could be taken at various angles. Instead of shooting groups at paper targets, I shot at various rocks and twigs sticking out of the snow. This is one advantage of a typical Montana winter: The snow leaves an instant record of where the shot struck—and every shot landed within 2-3 inches of where the illuminated dot was placed, all the way out to 500 yards, and many were direct hits. (Of course, I picked windless days for the shooting.)
Not every cartridge/bullet combination has the same trajectory, so the scope has to be programmed for the ballistics of the specific load used. The test rifle was a semi-custom .223 Remington, built on a Remington 788 action with a medium-weight stainless E.R. Shaw barrel and a Timney trigger. It’s quite accurate, especially with the test load, a 50-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip and 26.0 grains of Ramshot TAC, which chronographs around 3350 fps. (Partly the 788 was chosen for the test because it’s so accurate, but it also has a long Weaver base screwed-and-glued onto the action, and I always have a lot of ammo loaded.)
Programming the scope with the bullet and velocity data would have gone much more quickly with the help of an 8th-grader, but I muddled through. The written directions that accompany the scope are pretty straightforward, so programming only took about 6-8 minutes. With familiarity the task could easily be done in half that time.
I used the side-button on the scope itself during all the shooting tests, but the scope also comes with a remote button on a Velcro strap for mounting on the rifle’s forend, a handier arrangement for some kinds of hunting, especially where the hunter needs to be a motionless as possible. I tested this secondary button set-up at home, and it works.
I didn’t test the repeatability of the scope’s standard adjustments, because there wasn’t any point, but for the purposes of the test I did sight-in the rifle 2” high at 100 yards, and that was easily done. (The reticle itself is a pretty much standard plex-type, and works fine even when not lit up electronically.) After the shooting tests, I made my standard nighttime eye-chart test at 25 yards, with the scope set on 6x. It rated a 6+ on the chart, about average for multi-coated scopes and perfectly adequate for most hunting. I expected it to test about like that, despite some Burris scopes testing 7 or even a little better, because complex reticles are normally mounted on a thin, uncoated sheet of glass. This reduces the amount of light reaching our eye slightly.
All in all the Burris Eliminator is a remarkable piece of technology, especially with the real-world price of around $850. It’s on the heavy side, so will probably mostly be used by varmint hunters in its present form, but we all know how electronics shrink over time. I’d expect a smaller version to appear in the future.
The test Leica ER was a 2.5-10x42mm, with a 30mm tube in an anodized matte-black finish (apparently the only finish available, at least right now). It’s remarkably compact for a scope of those dimensions, and weighs only 16.6 ounces. I mounted it in Talley steel rings on Mr. Miserable, my old .338 Winchester Magnum, built on an FN Mauser action with a medium-weight 22’ barrel and one of Mark Bansner’s High-Tech synthetic stocks.