Let’s start with a pop quiz. What does SMRS stand for?
A. Southern Midget Racing Series
B. Southampton Model Railway Society
C. Scottish Military Re-enactment Society
D. Short to Mid-Range Rifle Scope
If you answered A or B, you’re reading the wrong website. While C might fit here, D is the correct answer.
I was first introduced to the new Bushnell Elite Tactical product line at a Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) conference earlier this year. There, I was blown away by a brand spanking new Bushnell Elite Tactical LMSS 8-40x 60mm spotting scope. The clarity was outstanding and the unit appeared to be capable of absorbing a few dozen RPG hits. It might even survive a night on the town in South Beach with actress Lindsay Lohan. Yes, it’s built that tough.
Let’s take a closer look.
A Quick Tour of the Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS 1-6.5×24 Scope
To make sure the optic and gun were equal partners, I put the Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS on a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 VTAC Model. This is one heck of an AR-15, complete with 1:7″ twist barrel to handle heavier bullets, a Viking Tactics free-floated hand guard, Surefire Flash suppressor and JP single-stage match trigger. Oh, and shhhhh – it can accept a 30 round magazine. So if you live in New York, California or Colorado you might have to deny reading this later. Anyway, this rifle can shoot up to the capabilities of this scope, so there is harmony at the range.
The Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS is constructed from milled aluminum and features a 30mm tube. I suspect it goes without saying that lenses are multi-coated and treated to resist water accumulation. The tube interior is purged with Argon. Don’t know what Argon is? Me either, but it keeps condensation from forming inside the scope. The 1-6.5×24 model I tested includes the Bushnell BTR-2 reticle in the first focal plane. Having the reticle in the first focal plane means that the reticle itself will grow and shrink in size as you zoom in and out. This is handy for ranging using the mil-dot system as it does not matter at what power level the zoom is set. The BTR-2 reticle seems to be optimized for a first focal plane scenario as the horseshoe ring shrinks down to what appears to be a single red dot at 1x zoom. At higher zoom levels, the stadia lines become clear and easy to see. Bushnell also offers this scope with a second focal plane option, which allows for more precise aiming at lower zoom levels. However, to use the ranging feature, you need to be at a set zoom level. First focal plane versus second focal plane decisions are strictly usage-based and user-preference. There is no right or wrong way to go and that’s why Bushnell offers both with this optic.
The Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS has great clarity that extends to the edge of the visible area. We inspected targets at the edges at all levels of zoom and found no issues with distortion or focus. Objects at the edge of the viewable circle were just as clear as those in the middle.
|The Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS 1-6.5×24 is a variable power scope that ranges from true 1x (no magnification) to 6.5x magnification. Zoom level is adjusted by a power change ring that is clearly marked. There are raised “nubs” on the ring that help achieve a positive grip.|
|Aluminum caps cover the completely hand-adjustable windage and elevation dials so you don’t knock anything out of whack inadvertently. The Bushnell logo was only present on the side cap – the top cap was simple matte black. Perhaps this is intentional to keep the view over the barrel clean and distraction free?|
|Both windage and elevation knobs make 1/10 of a mil adjustment per click, so there is plenty of granularity to get your point of aim and point of impact aligned with your specific load. To put that in english, each click shifts point of impact just about .34 inches at 100 yards. Once you have figured out your zero, you can raise the caps to escape the ratchet mechanism, rotate the knob so “0” is indicated at the appropriate hash mark, then press the knob back down. Couldn’t be easier.|
|Notice the visual indicators under the turret. For extreme adjustments, you can see how many complete turns have been made from zero. Each complete turn on the windage or elevation turrets represents a 10 mil adjustment.|
|See the dots between the two night vision compatible settings? Those “stops” are present between every two settings throughout the dial. if you need to turn illumination on in a hurry, you’re not spinning a dial from an off position. Simply move it one click in either direction and you’re in business.|
|The eyepiece features a fast-focus ring that allows you to adjust the reticle into sharp focus based on your particular eyesight.|
|The illuminated reticle is powered by a single CR2032 battery. To access, just use a coin to unscrew the illumination adjustment turret cap.|
|The vertical bar is graduated in mils and displays a 10 mil elevation range for holdovers. As this illustration shows, only the center dot and the horseshoe ring are illuminated. As you can see, elevation is graduated in .5 mil increments. The center red dot measures .3 mils.|
|As this is a first focal plane scope (it’s available in first or second), zooming in to 6.5x is handy for rough and quick ranging. The horizontal bar has vertical hashmarks of different lengths that indicate the relative height of a 10 inch target at various distances. Of course, you can do this without zooming in if you’ve got really, really good eyes. A normal-ish human is about 20″ wide at the chest, so the 10″ range conversions are easy. Please keep in mind that the 20″ width rule does not apply to certain un-named and outspoken Hollywood celebrities. In those cases, just measure the length of 14,300 Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD’s lined up end-to-end, and multiply by the diameter of the moon.|
|This is the Bushnell BTR-2 Reticle. Zoom is set all the way to 6.5x and the target stand is placed at 100 yards. The orange circles are just under 4 inches in diameter. In this photo, the reticle is unlit. When lit, the thick-bordered horseshoe / circle shows up in red and is very visible in bright daylight conditions. The neat thing about the first focal plane option of the BTR-2 reticle is that at 1x (no zoom) the reticle acts like a single point red dot sight. Hit the illumination and the now small horseshoe appears to be a single dot. So the same reticle serves both fast, short-range shots and longer, more precise shots.|
Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS 1-6.5×24 Scope Range Performance
I completed a 6 shot box to test out the scope adjustment consistency and repeatability. As I wanted to do some fairly extreme windage and elevation adjustment, I set up a target at 50 yards so I could replicate about a 2 foot adjustment at 100 yards, yet still keep rounds on paper. The first shot was center of target. As I was testing multiple scopes that day, I did not invest the time in getting point of impact to coincide exactly with point of aim at this distance, but as you’ll see it’s close. Using the same aiming point, I then moved 32 clicks down and 32 clicks right to get the lower right corner of the box. Then 64 clicks up, 64 clicks left, 64 clicks down and finally a return to zero. As you can see, the scope did an excellent job of coming right back to the original point of impact after all that adjustment.
Since this is a variable power scope, I also wanted to make sure that the point of impact remained constant at different power levels. In this test, I shot the upper target at full 6.5x magnification. The center target was fired at 3x magnification and the lower at 1x or no magnification. The group size only grew because I’m half blind. But I wasn’t concerned with group size. I only wanted to verify that the point of impact relative to point of aim was constant at different zoom settings. As you can see, it was. All groups fell into a 7 o’clock position relative to the aiming point.
This ain’t your daddy’s Bushnell. While Bushnell has made solid stuff at a mid-range price point, the Elite Tactical line enters the premium segment, although still at an attractive price point for what you get. It compares favorably to similar premium scopes that cost 2 – 3 times as much. Want a quality variable optic and don’t have a Seal Team 6 equipment budget? Take a look at this one. And check out the Bushnell Elite Tactical Spotting Scope. That was super impressive at first look and we hope to do a complete evaluation soon.
Available at Brownells