Schmidt & Bender 3-27x56 PMII
- By Chris Parkin
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 16/11/2017
Schmidt & Bender’s PMII range was my first entry into the world of precision optics suitable for long range (over 1000-metres) shooting and I have stretched them out well beyond the magic mile. The 3-27x56 PMII High Power is an optic for just such a challenge, originally specified for military usage with wide field of view for observational purposes, showing 13-metres of lateral vision at 100-metres on 3x magnification, with broad 9x zoom ratio enabling precise aiming onto the very smallest of distant targets with 27x magnification applied.
A large 56mm objective lens allows a lot of light to enter the one-piece aluminium 34mm tube of the PMII that enables a bright image, even at high magnification alongside large exit pupil ratios across the range for long periods of usage, with minimal eye strain.
S&B’s venerable 5-25x56 was the specific optic that introduced me to what I have since described as “A visually relaxed environment”, a phrase I have applied very few times to optics that have really pleased me in use since. Eye strain is the bane of poor optics and this Schmidt continues the reputation of the manufacturer for producing a wide, flat image with great colour rendition, precise adjustments and perhaps of most importance, a very sharp reticle that even in the first focal plane, strikes a good balance for size of its 9x expansion from 3-27x zoom and never grows too large to remain of full usage at long range.
The P4L Fein really is fine, yet remains pin sharp thanks to the fast-focus eyepiece at the rear of the scope’s ocular body. I hate wasting fractions of seconds waiting for my eyes to define a reticle and the muscular control required to do so, by your own eyes’ ciliary muscles deforming the lenses within them. If needed too much, it’s one of the tedious repetitive elements that makes for the eye strain you encounter on scopes of poor quality, every time you try to aim at a target whose image, and that of the reticle, needs to be intertwined to ensure your shot hits the mark.
The mRad hash marks on all four stadia of the reticle comply exactly, regardless of magnification (FFP remember) with the ‘clicks’ on the elevation and windage turret, which are well weighted, gently audible but definitely tactile in operation. Each extends 5mRads from the centre, before the upper three broaden to heavier bars that at low mag direct your attention subconsciously to the reticle’s centre. The windage turret runs 6 mils left or right of centre with clear markings and is resettable to indicate centre position after zeroing with fiddle free Allen key grub screw. Centre position has a tactile detent that the knob clicks into before reversing direction, L-R, or vice versa.
Elevation is controlled by a similar 37mm knurled aluminium turret atop the scope, with two turns to adjust through the total available 26 mils/260cm at 100-metres of initial mechanical elevation for zeroing. In use, the double turn turret shows 14 mils per turn (with up on this unit being clockwise, although counter clockwise is an option available from the factory) with a centre button on top lifting proud of the locking dial on the second turn. The scope Features ‘MTC’ (More Tactile Clicks) that mean every tenth 0.1mRad/1m at 100-metres click feels heavier, so it becomes easier to count each full mRad of elevation added. I was shooting the scope on a 338 Lapua Magnum at 1000-metres, for which I needed just over 10mRad of elevation to compensate for and the MTC feature certainly speeds up operation and certainty of adjustment, even though S&B’s turrets also show such lovely clear white engraved markings. A fist full of the turret for ten heavy ‘clunks’ and then a couple of the more delicate ‘clicks’ can be done totally without visual confirmation for 10.2mRad if necessary. The individual smaller clicks are still heavy enough to ‘brake’ your speed but a little overrun is easily backtracked upon and I do think MTC is a desirable feature on a scope, so much so it is Patented, so those that do use it have to pay a royalty to the Patent’s owner. (This is not a function or patent to be confused with ‘MTC Optics’ by the way!)
Weighing in at 1128 grams with a 395mm overall length makes the scope large but not onerously bulky and totally in tune with the likely rifle to which it will be fitted. There are 50mm in front and 60mm of tube space behind the central saddle for scope mounting, which allows adequate room for most long action rifles on twin mounts, or single mount like the Spuhr or Unimount. The saddle doesn’t protrude too far below the tube’s underside, which can be a hassle with some single mounts. On a picatinny rail, none of this is a problem anyway, with masses of liner space to set up correct position for the 90mm of eye relief on offer. Again, this may sound less than the 100mm of some sporting optics but the likely adjustable stock fit and recoil dampening of a heavy calibre long range rifle actually makes them pussycats to shoot and that shorter eye relief runs alongside the larger 8.7 to 2.07mm exit pupil diameters enabled by the 56mm objective lens from 3-27x magnification.
The eye box is easily accessible and after the initial recoil movement of the gun after each shot, it takes a fraction of a second to regain full sight picture and spot the bullet’s impact, hopefully on target, but if missed, the splash on the backstop is equally important. Being able to aim off or read the impacts directly from the reticle to gauge adjustments is the major benefit of first focal plane and having a reticle that doesn’t take up too much space, isn’t too ‘busy’, is equally beneficial because that ‘splash’ you need to read is often tiny and useless if visually obscured. The P4L has half-sized hash marks rather than dots every half mRad, with larger marks for each full mRad. There is a ramped scale bracketing box for target measurements (man sized target) in the lower half of the field of view but otherwise the four open quadrants of the reticle remain unobscured and this is my favoured approach for long-range shooting. The lower 6 o’clock stadia is almost bare in comparison to the other three and this makes spotting low strikes easy. Illumination runs from 1-11 on a 28.5mm dial to the left rear of the tube, in front of the zoom collar, lights just the central half mil cross in the reticle in red and this too is crisply lit with no flare or internal reflections. At low magnification, on full intensity, it is almost just a dot but perfectly suited to point and shoot likely to be used on 3x. There are no intermediate off positions on the dial and I was unable to verify if the auto off function was working correctly, as this one did have a habit of eating fresh batteries!
Magnification control is silent with no feel of any internal movement of the lens packages. It’s a handfilling, machined 52mm collar with 4.6mm deep serrations enabling grip without any sharp edges or easily damaged rubberisation with bare hands or gloved. It swells a few mm larger than the ocular body and appears to be well sealed, with no visible air gaps likely to accumulate dust and debris, just like the rest of the external moving parts. A fast focus eyepiece is no surprise at the very rear and is the same size as the 47.9mm parallel tube body to enable overfit scope caps like the Tenebraex and without any illumination controls bulking it up, you can position rear mounted NV accessories if that appeals. Parallax adjustment on the left side 40mm dial of the saddle was equally smooth, with no apparent backlash from 10-metres to infinity and the distances marked were somewhat representative of actual real-world range but regardless of that, I was able to achieve sharp focus at both ends of the spectrum and seemingly repeatable removal of parallax error, which at 1000-metres with a wide fiend of view and generous eyebox/exit pupil, was very reassuring. On a heavy monopod mounted rifle, I was consistently able to ‘float’ my head off the stock and deliberately drift around the cheekpiece to check there was no apparent relative reticle movement at all and that’s what dialling out parallax is all about.
At 1000/1500-metres and beyond, minor mis-adjustments that may be unimportant on a gallery range, can send bullets a long way off target before you even think about encountering wind variations. Lost bullets, even when safely retained in backstops are a waste of range time and money, so the accuracy and assured adjustments I found between 100-300-700- and 1000-metres on this PMII were an extra item to be relied upon, and almost forgotten while I concentrated on other aspects of safe shooting. Being able to track your own bullet trace in the wide field of view and get a tiny millisecond of warning as to where it may be drifting slightly off target is a superb capability, thanks to the resolution of the optics. A spotting scope is often deliberately focussed a little short to catch that bullet trace more easily and although you aren’t likely to ‘go short’ on a rifle scope, the long depth of field was helpful. When playing around with the side focus parallax set shorter and not shooting, it did on a couple of shots help to pick up mid-range mirage on the longest shots.
Although other manufacturers are keen to emulate Schmidt & Bender’s success in the longrange market, the marque still performs with just a slight lead in magnification ranges and has not fallen behind with development or capability. Prices are rising very quickly with all brands thanks to the weak exchange rates but £3k is still a big threshold to cross and it is difficult to see the real-world benefits of these last few pounds over some competitors when you haven’t used them all head to head.
The PMII is reassuringly expensive but at £5-£8 per shot on applicable rifles/calibres, it’s hard to knock such quality optics and mechanical adjustment that you can rely on.
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