Gun review: Tactical triumph

Chris Parkin finds himself warming to American scopes as he reviews the Bushnell Elite Tactical DMR II in 3.5-21×50.

This is my third encounter with Bushnell’s Elite Tactical range, and I was pleased to report this latest unit has exceeded all my previous experiences. The-34mm bodied scope is designed for the long-range shooter or varminter with a G3 mRad reticle in the first focal plane to remain constantly connected visually to dialled corrections from either turret.

The body is a one-piece machined unit with clean, smooth anodising that remains crisp-looking without dragging all the dust and dirt from any contact with skin. With 60mm to the rear of the saddle and 50mm in front, there is plentiful mounting space for individual rings parted by regular action bridges, or a one-piece mount on a Picatinny rail.

Physical weight is 1049 grams to remain competitive with similar FFP tactical scopes, and there is 30 mRad of adjustment from the non-locking elevation turret. This shows 0.1 mRad clicks equalling 10mm at 100 metres with 10 mRad/100 clicks per turn.


SPECS

Scope spec: 3.5-21x50mm
Reticle: G3 mRad design in FFP
Side Parallax Adjustment Range: 50yd – Infinity
Eye Relief: 4in / 101.6mm
Length: 13.2in / 335.3mm
Weight: 37.0oz / 1049g
Tube Diameter: 34mm
Field of View (Ft @100 Yd): 25ft-5ft @ 3.5-21x
Elevation Adjustment Range: 30.0 Mil
Windage Adjustment Range: 20.0 Mil
Travel Per Rotation: 10 Mil
Elevation Turret: Mil-Based, Exposed, Non-Locking
Windage Turret: Mil-Based, Exposed, Locking
Zero Stop: Yes
Coatings: Fully Multi-Coated
Illuminated: 11 intensity settings, intervening ‘off’
Waterproofing: IPX7
Price of model on test: £1,472.60
Contact: edgarbrothers.com or phone 01625 613177
Also used: Sportsmatch scope rings, sportsmatch-uk.com


The windage turret differs in that it does lock so ‘lifts to turn’, marked 5 mRad left or right of centre zero with tactile clicks and clear, well-spaced markings on the 41.4mm diameter cap. There is 20 mRad of underlying adjustment to make sure you have plenty of space for your primary zero when setting up.

Opposite, you’ll find a parallax dial marked from 75 yards to infinity with reasonably accurate and well-spaced distance markers engraved. This showed no backlash for sharp adjustment and a smooth, if firm, weighting. A decent amount of knurling is shown for mechanical grip, but this is finger/thumb tips rather than a fistful because the outer illumination dial is also present here.

Marked in the ubiquitous 1-11 intensity settings, the centre Christmas tree of the reticle is illuminated from 5 mRad above to 10 mRad below centre, with both arms lit in red out to 8 mRad before the simpler black etched lines take over.

There is no disturbing glare from the reticle and with intermittent ‘off’ positions it can be easily returned to your chosen intensity with a quick flick.

I liked the reticle. It’s clean and clear, well weighted, with some skeletonisation and distinct black numbers next to the hash markings every two mRad.

The Throw Hammer was excellent but may interrupt smooth bolt operation on left-handed rifles

The weighting of the etched lines was a great balance, with neither maximum nor minimum magnification seeming compromised and invisible or excessively disruptive on a selection of hunting scenarios or target sizes at appropriate magnification settings.

A full 18 mRad field of view remains at 21x magnification for plentiful spontaneous aim-offs and bullet splash observation. I used this scope alongside Bushnell’s Tac spotting scope with similar FFP reticle, and they make a wonderful pairing, with shooter and spotter able to quickly measure aim-off and communicate in simple agreement through any course of fire or magnification setting.

A zero-stop facility is shown on the elevation dial, with a neat toolset supplied for easy set-up, a hard polymer ring with integral hex and Torx keys set into it.

Once you have zeroed your rifle, unscrew the top cap, lift off the dial, loosen three grub screws in the zero-stop collar, turn it all the way clockwise back to its stop, re-tighten then re-assemble. Simple, fast, and the ease of installing a zero-stop retaining any required ‘negative travel’ you may desire.

From here, any additional elevation dialled on anti-clockwise shows the turret to rise and expose Vernier markings indicating which ‘turn’ you are within, but with 10 mRad per revolution, only those going well beyond 1000 metres are likely to venture beyond here anyway. I love metric and the logic of ‘tens’ so Bushnell, a US brand with Japanese manufacture, certainly pleases me here.

The G3 mRad reticle showed great subtension balance between low and high magnification
Bushnell supply this nifty tool to cover all adjustments when setting up the scope and zero-stop turret

Moving rearward, magnification is controlled with a segmented aluminium collar spanning the ocular body with Bushnell’s Throw Hammer Lever to aid speed of adjustment on the smooth internal mechanism.

The lever transits ‘8 o’clock to 2 o’clock’ between 3.5x and 21x magnification, so it won’t suit left-handed fast bolt operation on low power – it’s likely to snag your hand – but in fairness, it is removable, and these long levers always seem to intervene ergonomically at some point. It really suited me, though of course I’m right-handed so it is designed for me.

A fast focus collar surrounds the 37.6mm ocular lens with 4in (101mm) of eye relief, suiting most centrefire rifles. The exit pupil was easily accessed, not fussy for linear position through the magnification range, and agreeably forgettable in use.

Broadening field of view expansion is linear down to about 4x mag, where very slight tunnelling is noticeable just before 3.5x is reached. I don’t see this as a major problem.

Having been far more used to premium European optics, I was always a little sceptical of American brands right up until my first encounter with the DMR scopes about five years ago. I found them easy to use, with crisp daylight imagery and perfectly reliable mechanics showing good tracking and return to zero.

It’s nice to see how they have incrementally evolved since then with zero stops, and though the details of exact lens coatings are never revealed, I feel the colour balance has further improved with richer image quality.

No transmission figures are published, and the brightness still lags a few minutes behind scopes £1,000 their superior in diminishing light, but for daytime use, in conditions suitable for long-range target engagement, I see no specific need for this, and I appreciate the no-nonsense performance of the DMR II.

Parallax was smooth and backlash-free, though you’ll need to be delicate when grabbing the dial

Some 450-metre small steel plates, well shot and with minimal painted colour left for visibility, were still able to demonstrate the excellent contrast of Bushnell’s glass where a couple of similar scopes failed me.

I’m afraid some competing brands need to catch up with Bushnell, especially its sharply etched reticle rendition with minimal focal disturbance throughout the magnification range.

This scope seems to leave me unable to push the description of ‘honest’ away from my thoughts. I specifically like crisp reticle throughout magnification range, backlash free parallax adjustment and logical turret design with well-spaced tactile clicks. The Elite Tactical DMR and Tac Spotting scope are superb highlights of Bushnell’s whole portfolio. 

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