Optics test with Chris Parkin: Schmidt & Bender Polar T96

In terms of light transmission, the Schmidt & Bender Polar T96 may just be the king of riflescopes. Chris Parkin tests to see if it stands up to his intense scrutiny. 

Schmidt & Bender’s T96 riflescope claims the highest light transmission percentage figures on the market of 96 per cent. I’m not really one to believe a great deal in marketing and the simple fact is that percentage light transmission is a vague statement.

Light waves travel in many colours of the spectrum, glass quality alone isn’t the key, the multi-layer coatings are a hidden mystery for the optical manufacturers to keep secretive.

It is their blend of coatings deposited on the glass surfaces that alter the balance of these light spectra to tailor the image to what the rods and cones in a human eye can compute. Are we talking a percentage of daylight in sunny conditions at noon, or the brightest glass in those critical last few minutes of dusk?

The Polar’s one-piece 34mm tube allows more space for the internal lenses In terms of light transmission, the Schmidt & Bender Polar T96 may just be the king of riflescopes. Chris Parkin tests to see if it stands up to his intense scrutiny Polar exploration and mechanics with physical space for the packages to move around enabling zeroing and longer-range adjustment.

The 54mm objective lens is smaller than a 56mm unit which equates to 8 per cent smaller cross-sectional area for light to enter in, yet given 96 per cent travels through the scope, what are we left with? Yes, a difficult balance of capability that is somewhat awkward to mathematically judge against competing optics.

Illumination, compact size, weight and easily adjustable BDC elevation turret are all featured on Schmidt’s matt black tube, finish is an exquisite silky texture that shrugs off dirt and stains. Both windage turret and elevation (capped dial with indicator window) show 1cm@100m clicks and elevation runs to 9.8 mRad (98, 1cm@100m clicks up from the zero stop).

A locking lever sits to the front left of this knurled dial with firm tactile clicks, silent in use and the turret certainly doesn’t exhibit any desire to be nudged or mis-adjusted. The left side of the saddle features illumination controls for the centre flash dot of the No.4 style reticle.

Parallax is fixed at 100 metres with no further adjustability, suiting the intended hunting ethos of the scope. At closer range, lower magnification retains image focus for point and shoot encounters. The scope is also available with its reticle in the first focal plane and with counter clockwise rotation on the turrets/mechanics if these suit your desires.

The reticle is second focal plane, so constant size as magnification is altered on the smoothly rotating collar about the ocular body.

90mm of eye relief remains stable and accessing of the eye box is versatile and suits the needs of the likely rifle, its recoil and purposes of usage perfectly. Four reticle options are available to give versatile crisp aiming solutions but here, a super sharp dot at low magnification in low light with maximum exit pupil size of 12mm, and field of view as wide as 12.5m at 100m.

Turret adjustment is clearly visible from the shooting position with tactile clicks, no overrun and operable wearing gloves

The coatings on S&B glass are never disappointing and regardless of the 96’s marketing hype, the image is of the highest order with crisp resolution, sharp focus with a flat field of view and no chromatic aberration, higher echelon indeed. I found colour reproduction a bit stark with less ‘warmth’ seen in some brands, but this is subjective and even in daylight, the image does appear starkly brighter than that of the ‘92 per cent capability’ many competing optics publish.

It’s almost impossible to try two scopes side by side in dim conditions without unwanted variables entering the comparison as you swap between guns in the last seconds of daylight, but I feel the Schmidt is of the very highest order of capability.

As well as late night vermin control out to 200 metres, the scope enjoyed a day at longer distances where its full range of adjustment and dialling capabilities were stretched. Schmidts generally have reassuring mechanics, and the Polar gave me no doubts of its accurate dialling capabilities with clicks matching wellproven ballistic data for this rifle with a perfect return to zero.

-3 to +2 dioptre should cope with most people’s eyes, but isn’t as extensive as some competitors who offer a useful -4

The zero stop is simple to set up following the instructions, slackening the turret cap with an Allen key and in poor light conditions, it was quite possible to count clicks judged by the tactile detents, as well as the logically indicated visual 1cm/0.01mRad click markings. Locked or not, the turret obeyed my controls, not what it wanted if nudged or dragged against clothing/foliage etc.

I was impressed with the Polar. Glassware and optical image quality are so hard to differentiate at the top end – mechanics are easier to pick fault with but none were found here. Is it the brightest? Well that is very hard to scientifically determine given the variety of light conditions hunters encounter with low sun, moonlight and atmospheric variables all altering colours and transmission of light before it even gets through the objective lens.

The Polar’s reticle is perfect for hunting situations regardless of lighting conditions. The image was noticeably bright in daylight conditions

But it is certainly a scope to which I will turn for more testing. S&B certainly have my confidence to explore the limits of the scope with no awkward and possibly confusing zeroing and adjustment drills for the BDC turret. Going back to what felt a slightly stark image colour-wise, this also leaves a feeling of precision behind for a tool solely concentrating on performance.

Contact www.schmidtundbender.de/en/ for your nearest UK dealer and current pricing.

Also used on test: Tier-One 34mm Picatinny Scope rings, www.tier-one.eu, 01924 404312


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