The Swarovski DS may have set the agenda for ‘smart scopes’, but let’s not forget that optics such as the Burris Laserscope already offer similar technology, and though not quite at the same level of technical complexity or optical excellence, have a far more realistic price point for lots of shooters.
The Ballistic III Laserscope arrives with two adjustable Weaver claw mounts to capably fasten it to either a one-piece rail, or individual bases spanning the action bridges of a sporting rifle. Although looking bulkier that a regular tubed optic, the overall size and 740g weight is not untoward, especially considering the accuracy of rifle needed to maximise on longer range capabilities.
The matt finish ‘tube’ is complemented by rubberised knurling on the major controls. Internal power is supplied by a side-mounted CR123A battery, good for 5,000 readings, and after a good read through the instructions, set-up is very straightforward. It requires you to enter the bullet drop from a 100- yard zero at 750 yards, in inches. No metric equivalent is available, but for a one-off need, mathematical conversion is no great issue. The internal rangefinder can be swapped from metres to yards for your long-term preference and the second requirement is the ballistic coefficient of the chosen bullet to two decimal places.
This seemed very simple, and indeed, it’s not a full ballistic calculation engine – but we are talking a medium-distance sporting rifle for hunting, not a longer-range precision or tactical tool, so be realistic. What does matter is speed and versatility, and the Burris is fast and rather well set up. Twin operation buttons to the underside of the objective bell enable left or right-handed shooters to actuate the optic with an index fingertip press, then actively rangefind to the target with a second press, a process similar to all rangefinders. What is different is that the G96 reticle is the aiming dot, and it’s pretty accurate, having no problem ranging a 250mm plate at 500 metres without beam divergence ‘missing’ the target.
After this beam is returned, the upper display shows the distance and accordingly, a red LED dot will appear on the lower reticle bar to indicate the correct vertical aiming point, compensating for the bullets trajectory at that distance. This dot remains illuminated for 80 seconds or until you ‘ping’ a new target, which is plentiful time to re-assume your preferred shooting position to make the shot. If shooting hand forward on the forend, operation becomes fast and intuitive, but if you want your hand balled into a fist under the buttstock, it can be slow if the target moves significantly or multiple animals are milling about.
Initial zero uses mechanical turrets calibrated 1/8in under conventional dust caps, and apart from the battery compartment, there is just the four-button control pad on the left side. Parallax adjustment is achieved with an objective collar marked from 50 yards out to infinity and did a good job of correcting focus on the image. For general hunting, I’d leave it at 200 metres and forget about it unless I specifically needed to go high mag/short range.
The exit pupil is critical to eye position laterally, though it has an extensive linear eyebox around the 100mm eye relief – so if your head position is wrong, you will notice quickly, and subconsciously correct it. 4-16x zoom with a 50mm objective lens is a moderate set-up for low light, and regardless of range, I wouldn’t say this is the best low- light scope anyway – the added illumination mechanics and electricals are something of a compromise to light transmission through multiple lens packages. Having said that, the image is clear with sharp reticle, fine enough for precise aiming on large deer.
The advertised maximum rangefinding capability is 1,100 yards (1,000m), depending on atmospherics and target reflectivity. I had no problems, and repeat readings were accurate to 1m. Adding your BC into the scope enables it to give you a windage hold-off for your bullet in a 10mph full value crosswind at the measured range, but this is a loose estimation and requires you to mentally calculate which laterally offset dot to aim with. To be honest, it’s not something I would use for anything other than target practice on silhouettes – it all takes time, and on live quarry, counting tiny black dots on an animal possibly meandering around is time-consuming and prone to mistakes being made. You make your own choices in terms of realistic shots within real-world scenarios.
The Laserscope is easy to mount and set up, the functionality and programming takes a few minutes, and after all that, it shoots well. On appropriately sized steel gongs and silhouettes placed randomly between 100 and 500 metres, I achieved first-round hits with my heavy-bullet .223 that were all vertically within my realistic kill zones. I did not need to correct any inputs for the primary set-up stages, though my ballistic data is well tested.
The wind was light, and when I took the time to estimate it and correlate it to the data displayed, counting lateral aim off dots, it did work – though I’m not sure it’s a substitute for assessing the wind condition’s effects on foliage nearer the target.
Smaller targets representing rabbit-sized quarry were a second test for the Burris on
a .223, for which I changed over to my lighter varminting 55gn. These faster pest control rounds were very good on 75 and 100m gongs as well as a few of the real bunnies.
You just need to take care to keep the aim precise, as that reticle does obscure more of the target than something like an ultra-fine Swarovski. It’s also pleasing to note that, though in the second focal plane, the internal electronics and displayed dots work correctly, regardless of which setting you are using.
I could have written a lot more about this scope but space is limited. The simple point is that I was confident with its honest performance. It is a full daylight scope in my opinion, but for a longer-range mountain hunt on large quarry, the internal clinometer, whose data is fed into the calculations, would be invaluable, with all controls feeling tough and rugged.