Classic European fixed power deer stalking scopes
- 12 Comments
- Last updated: 13/12/2016
Riflescopes these days appear to be on an ever increasing rise in terms of magnification power. Upper magnification values of 24, 32, 40, 50 and even 60 times being available, accompanied by the now ubiquitous side focus/parallax adjustment, all singing all dancing reticles and oversize external elevation/windage turrets.
Variable magnification scopes also proliferate, getting more and more complex, now with huge magnification ranges from minimum to maximum. These have evolved to give an edge in Field Target, F class, BR and other high accuracy disciplines. But when it comes to all weather stalking, there is something about a good old fixed magnification scope that takes some beating. These type of scopes, most notably those from Europe (the original home of precision stalking optics) offer clarity, fuss free simplicity and probably the best feature of all - absolute reliability.
The specification of fixed magnification scopes centres around the magic 7mm exit pupil – or how much light is transmitted to the eye. This is calculated by taking the objective lens diameter divided by the magnification which equals the exit pupil size. The optimum is around 7mm, as this is the most the average human eye can cope with. These combinations - 6x42, 8x56, 7x50 - hit the 7mm or just a bit more. There are newer combinations which are close to 7mm but offer lower mounting, even more light gathering or a bit more precision at the cost of absolute low light performance -8x50, 7x56, 10x50 and 10x42. All are factory set to be parallax free at 100 metres, so no side or objective parallax adjustment required. Turrets are low profile covered “set and forget” types, so aim off and holdover - not dialling - is the order of the day. Adjustment is the European standard of “metric” clicks; 1 click = 1cm of adjustment at 100m (0.1 mil/click for mil dot fans!)
All the optics I am about to appraise are top notch. Differences in performance are small, only the most expensive having a slight but discernible advantage in some area or other, though not necessarily the optical quality. All the lenses are fully multicoated and made from the very best optical glass. They are weatherproof to the point of being submersible, shockproof, guaranteed not to fog up, and able to withstand the fiercest of recoil. Tube sizes vary but are either 25.4mm (1 inch) or 30mm diameter and reticles come in a wide range of styles including daylight designs and illuminated variants for early or late outings in the forest.
Providing that they are securely mounted, these fixed mag scopes excel in the fact that zero shift is virtually unheard of, whereas history has proven this to be a bit of an Achilles heel with variable power scopes when zooming in or out.
Optical equipment is compared using several standards, exit pupil size I have already covered, geometric luminescence is the square of exit pupil, twilight factor is the square root of magnification x objective. Twilight factor can be misleading, as higher magnification increases this value disproportionately. Exit pupil size is the best indicator of low light performance; the larger the exit pupil the brighter the image will appear, assuming the same quality of glass and coatings.
Price wise I have deliberately not quoted any prices but most or all these scopes are advertised within these pages, so up to date information is at your finger tips.
TABLE OF OPTICAL VALUES
SCOPE MAG OBJECTIVE EXIT PUPIL TWILIGHT FACTOR GEOMETRIC LUMINESCENCE
6X42 6 42 7.0 15.87 49.0
7X50 7 50 7.14 18.71 51.0
7X56 7 56 8.0 19.80 64.0
8X50 8 50 6.25 20.00 39.1
8X56 8 56 7.0 21.17 49.0
10X42 10 42 4.20 20.49 17.6
10X50 10 50 5.0 22.36 25.0
The 6x42 Selection;
Meopta, Artemis 2000 (Czech Republic)
Kahles Helia C (Austria)
Schmidt and Bender Classic (Model on test made in Germany assembled in Hungary) Swarovski PF (Austria)
Zeiss Diatal Classic (Germany)
Overview of 6x42
This specification has been the acknowledged “yardstick” as far as stalking scopes are concerned. Objects appear in focus from around 10-12m out to infinity giving enough magnification to take deer out to 300m (this may be deemed an unethically long range for some, but I’m discussing the potential of the optics, not the rights or wrongs of long range shooting of deer). The field of view is generous and the image is easy to hold steady as the wobble factor of 6x is manageable to the average shooter.
6x42 Data Table
SCOPE LENGTH mm WEIGHT g TUBE FOVm/100m
MEOPTA 348 500 25.4mm 7.0
KAHLES 319 410L 600S 25.4mm 7.8
SCHMIDT 335 510 30mm 7.0
SWAROVSKI 326 340 25.4mm 7.0
ZEISS 322 420 25.4mm 7.0
6x42 Highlights & Lowpoints
Smooth lines, objective bell flares out seamlessly. Very useable reticle 4/8B, for daylight precision, has holdover points and size estimation marks on the reticle. A bargain price in this company. Turrets are a little basic but function is flawless; the fine reticle is quickly “lost” at dawn/dusk against an animal.
Has the shortest length, widest field of view, astounding picture sharpness. There is very little tube protruding beyond the objective lens in order to achieve the very short length, my personal preference is for a little more overhang to protect the glass. Available in both light alloy and steel construction.
Schmidt & Bender
There’s a 30mm tube on this Hungarian assembled version. Superb turrets with remaining adjustment indicator. Weighty by comparison with others but feels ultra rugged.
A real featherweight, clever pop up to reset turrets, brilliant colour resolution. Spring loaded ocular bell to minimise injury in the event of getting “scoped” under heavy recoil. Feels a little delicate due to the very low weight.
An ultra bright image, lightweight and compact, pop up turrets very similar to the Swarovski. As used by Rigby, David Lloyd etc. - the original benchmark. Nothing to be picky about.
The 7x50 (or 56) selection;
Meopta Artemis 2000 and Meostar R1 (Czech Republic)
Kahles Helia CBX (Austria)
Schmidt and Bender Classic (Germany)
Zeiss Diatal Classic (Germany)
Overview of 7x50 (or 56)
7x50 has been the traditional specification for maritime binoculars dating back to WW1; this performance carries over into rifle scopes. Low light ability coupled with the capability to mount the scope fairly low is arguably at an optimum with this format. Until recently only Meopta offered scopes in this combination, establishing a loyal following especially amongst fox shooters. Kahles, Schmidt & Bender and Zeiss all now recognise what a versatile specification this is with offerings of their own. When viewed side by side the extra magnification 7x offers compared to 6x is easily discernible, giving more detail but at the cost of reduced field of view. Meopta, not a company to sit on their hands, have now gone one better by offering the new Meostar range, this features a 7x56 model. With all 7x scopes the minimum focus is at approximately 15m. In Germany this specification is popular as night hunting by “natural” light is legal.
7x50(56) Data Table
SCOPE LENGTH mm WEIGHT g TUBE FOVm/100m
MEOPTA 353 500 25.4mm 5.7
KAHLES 336 500 25.4mm 6.8
SCHMIDT 335 650 30mm 6.0
MEOSTAR 326 495 25.4mm 7.0
ZEISS 325 460 25.4mm 5.8
7x50(56) Highlights & Lowpoints
Meopta (Artemis), Kahles, Zeiss
Ditto all the points raised on the 6x42’s, but with even more brightness and brilliance in the images. Both the Kahles CBX and the Zeiss Diatal were illuminated reticle variants. The Kahles has a novel step-less brightness intensity control while the Zeiss has a more traditional stepped control. Both have a third turret housing the rheostat which is a ‘pull out to turn on, push in to turn off’ type.
Schmidt & Bender
My personal favourite (I’m biased toward 30mm tubes and I really rate the turrets on S&B scopes) the image on this model just shaded the others in terms of brightness and resolution. This has an illuminated L1 reticle. Normally I would shun such a bold design as they usually obscure too much of the target, but the tip of the floating triangle above the post could be aimed with great precision.
Bigger, brighter, but not heavier than its Artemis 2000 cousin. In real terms this scope gives around 10 more usable minutes at dusk over the standard 7x50… but that could be all the difference between success and failure. I’m surprised Meopta didn’t go for a 30mm tube which would elevate a great scope into a fantastic one.
The 8x’s and 10x’s Selection
Kahles Helia C 8x50, 8x56 & 10x50, made in Austria
Schmidt and Bender Classic, 8x56 (Hungarian) and Classic 10x42 (Germany) Swarovski 8x50 & 8x56 (Austria)
Zeiss Diatal Classic 8x56 (Germany)
Overview of 8x’s and 10x’s.
Here we have the brightest (theoretical) images with the 8x56’s and the most detailed but darkest images in the 10x’s with the 8x50’s in between. 8x56 scopes come with the problem of how to mount them low to the rifle; the large objective needing high mounts and compromising cheek to stock contact, unless an adjustable cheek piece is fitted. Regardless of the ergonomics, the light gathering and a high twilight factor of 21.2 mean this is the daddy at dawn and dusk. The 8x50 format offers lower mounting without sacrificing too much in the low light stakes, with a twilight factor of 20. The 10x scopes are really at the upper end of non-parallax adjustable scopes, minimum focussing is pushed out to around 20m. This relatively high magnification would not be most stalkers first choice. It’s too powerful and dark for woodland use but ideal for long range open hill use in daylight.
8+10x Data Table
SCOPE LENGTH mm WEIGHT g TUBE FOVm/100m
KAHLES (8X50) 336 470 25.4 5.9
S & B (8X56) 371 624 25.4 5.2
SW’SKI (8X50) 331 395 30 5.2
ZEISS (8x56) 352 495 25.4 5.2
SW’SKI (8x56) 337 450 25.4 5.2
S & B (10x42) 371 510 30 4.0
KAHLES(10x50) 336 470 25.4 4.7
KAHLES (8X56) 365 520 25.4 5.9
It was a real joy to assess these scopes, no eye strain, very easy to get the eye relief spot on quickly, pin sharp bright images and the advantage of the “bigger picture” as the field of view offered is huge when comparing to high magnification variables. I am the first to hold my hand up and say I prefer high magnification when ammunition testing and load developing on paper, but I find myself now switching from my 25x scope once a load has been developed and opting for a fixed 8x or 10x scope for all the reasons I’ve covered before. Zeroing just needs an appropriate target: whereas with a 25x scope I would be trying to home in on a 5mm dot at 100 metres, with a relatively low powered fixed scope I shoot at a bolder aiming point, a cross of bright orange insulating tape makes a superb target, easily seen with a 6x magnification scope, used in conjunction with a spotting scope to see the hits.
Our attitudes may have changed over recent years to the ‘bigger is better’ philosophy, and even the manufacturers realise that fixed magnification scopes are less popular than they once were. But for the traditionalists out there you just can’t beat them for reliability, longevity and quality.
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BettyDix26 Sep 2020 at 08:09 PM
Personally, I favour fixed power on all my rifles.
8x56 is superb, even on a firing range at 1000 yards.
My a Nickel 8x56 is literally astounding!
The crosshair is better for hunting at any distance, and doesn’t completely obscure a pigeon at 741 yards, so great in low light, which most tactical reticles aren’t
Mounted it on a 20 MOA rail on my 300WM, and I have a superb scope for both hunting and sniping.
No parallax or gimmicky IR, just crystal clear lenses, which is what enhances your accuracy, more so than very busy reticles.
Richard Thompson22 Jul 2018 at 03:54 AM
HIGH POWER VARIABLES FOR TARGET RIFLES AND LOW FIXED POWER FOR HUNTING,PERIOD.
peter rudder13 Jun 2018 at 11:22 AM
I have a Meopta 7X50 on a Sako 22/250 and use it Primarily for fox shooting. I took heed of Professional Kangaroo Shooters in Aust who were using the Meopta for 6-8hrs most nights. They function on with dents in the tubes and certainly can "take a licking". The reality is that a lot of the great Geman glass is now being made in Eastern Europe but still charging the premium prices of yore. I think the Meopta is very hard to ignore at a 30 to 40% price differential over some competitors.
I agree with others here that it is important to buy quality Glass. Fixed scopes make target aquisition at night easier in my opinion and when teamed with an accurate flat shooting calibre look out. I liked the S&B 8x56 better possibly but its really heavy and at twice the price.....forget it.
James Horsburgh21 Sep 2012 at 05:25 PM
Hi Pete, Not a fundamentalist (I don't think) just stupid... I have just bought a Meopta 6x42 and 7x50 and to be honest forgot just how low they are in terms of mag. I was going to put the 6x42 on my rimfire but NO-WAY, can't go back to that, I like head shots on rabbits,... perhaps it will go on the .243 instead with the 7x50 on the .22/250, I was perhaps hoping they would be close to my S&B 8x56 (they aint..) That will probably go on my next purchase a cheap .308
The key is to buy quality scopes, "the spawn of the devil" is probably very tongue in cheek but I hate all the bells and whistles of modern scopes, dont like parallax adjustment, bullet drop compensators etc, drives me mad; I like hunting scopes and don't pretend to be a FBI sniper if you know what I mean.... Keep up the great reviews chaps and I must go and put some air in my tyres.....lol
Gordon Galbraith30 Mar 2012 at 02:24 PM
That's a bit strong, guess you must be a fundimentalist as they have strong, single-minded views on everyhting... I quite agree both x4 and x6 single power scopes are great, simplicity and reliability are the key words here, given you buy good quality optics. However, time moves on and we now even have tyres with air in them... so I would still pick a quality low/mid power variable even though at most times I would set it to x8 and leave it there. Sometimes you need to wind it up or down for that occasional shot and that's the beauty of them.
pete moore22 Mar 2012 at 09:04 AM
High power variable scopes are the spawn of the devil......
Great for target use or zeroing, but useless in the field..!
Gordon Galbraith21 Mar 2012 at 11:04 PM