Discovery Optics was a new name to me when I received their 3-18×50 FFP scope a few months ago. Appearances straight from the box were impressive – a part of me is shocked to see how much Chinese manufacturing standards have risen in the 10 years I have been reviewing optics. They have chased and very occasionally superseded European, Japanese and American standards, with the one tested here seemingly offering outstanding value at £399.99.
The one-piece aluminium maintube is smoothly burnished before hard anodising in a deep-grey, almost black colour, and does not attract all the dust and skin particles from your fingertips every time it is touched. It’s compact at 335mm but has a robust, dense feel of reassuring solidity when hefted at 745g. Initial handling of key controls indicated higher standards, if not quite perfect integral engineering.
I mistakenly acquired the price before I formed an opinion and although this is the reverse of my usual procedures, I couldn’t help but raise my hat to this optic. Both external turrets require a 1mm lift to unlock them and rotate with decent clicks, with 60 clicks per turn for 60cm@100m or 6 mRad of adjustment. That equates to a little under 20 M.O.A. and is easy to read and dial with little chance of overrun from the well-spaced detents. Each dial is 33.7mm in diameter with machined knurling to aid grip and operable in gloves before pressing back down to lock in position. Clicks don’t ‘snap’ hard on the detents but are acceptable – actually more than acceptable given the price and overall specification that this package offers. The coin slot in each cap is quite narrow; you will probably need a screwdriver to remove it, so be careful not to mark the aluminium. After initial zeroing, pop these off to lift off and replace the outer dials to mark your zero. There is no zero stop or rotation indicator but with just over four turns in total, if you do get ‘lost’, it’s not that hard to wind to one end of the travel and count back complete turns. The windage turret is marked left and right of the centre, which is a minor benefit that so many manufacturers seem too lazy to do – so that’s a factor I appreciate as a shooter and ‘dialler’.
A parallax dial is sited on the left side of the mid tube saddle, marked from 10-infinity with the majority of markings clustered between 10 and 500. Regardless of these, I had no problem gaining a sharp image focus with minimal backlash and a defined depth of field, attaining true parallax-free performance as low at 12m on full 18x magnification. The inner illumination control shows six stages to light intensity in the centre portion of the first focal plane mRad reticle that agrees with all dialled corrections regardless of magnification. It’s small and slight at 3x but the illumination is bright enough to define it against most backgrounds for accurate shot placement on larger targets.
Each stage is separated with an intervening ‘off’ so a quick flick has it back on show from extinguished. There are no automated off or inclination functions but a CR2032 battery is now the industry norm for illumination and like any battery, if you rely on it, carry a spare! Magnification is controlled from 3-18x by a collar at the front of the ocular body, rotating anti-clockwise through 180 degrees from end to end. Movement is smooth and well weighted with no internal noise generated within the helical mechanisms and no tight spots mid-travel. Both end stops are defined, but you do get the feel that over-zealous clumsiness might find a slight weakness on these – but realistically, you don’t need to yank it around in a ham-fisted manner as it works smoothly itself, so be sure to show it some respect.
A first focal plane reticle with mRad markings is a joy when it matches the turret values, so precise dialling or aim offs were available from this scope. I couldn’t help but feel it comes from an airgun design background with all those close-range parallax markings but to be fair, I used it on an FAC air rifle controlling vermin and a .223 out to 600 metres without issue. The precise reticle in sharp focus was a pleasure to accompany the airgun, with precision shot placement needed on small quarry that are easily blocked out by clumsy reticles on low- end optics; those with high aspirations they fail to achieve, not so with the Discovery! Box testing on paper showed good if not quite perfect mechanical adjustment but certainly within the realms needed for all but the most precision rifles. Return to zero was within one click at 100m on the centrefires and the ‘HD’ glass certainly stood up well at any range in daylight. I appreciated edge-to-edge clarity and a linear progression of brightness as the magnification was increased/decreased; there didn’t seem to be a specific drop-off point or step as is so often seen when you wind up the mag, and the image seems to fall suddenly to unusable. Daylight brightness, resolution and colour contrast was pretty good but as the light fell, a scope with a great mechanical specification did reveal the weaker spots in the overall package.
You cannot compare the light transmission and brightness of this scope at dusk with a high-end Euro optic yet; hey, they are 6x the price and upward, so I think the Discovery is superb value for money. The lifetime warranty is limited to ten years in Europe but even if it were to fail after that, it would be ten years of accessible shooting with mechanics/optics capable of a great introduction to dialling, reticle functionality and use at longer ranges.
Frankly, this is a scope I wanted to use more, if only to deliberately try and break it with repetitive dialling up, down, left and right when tackling longer-range steel gongs with the .223. In the month I had it it, showed no weakness.