The craziness of youth has somewhat subsided in me, I used to haul all kinds of garbage with me all over the mountains. To some degree I still do, but the wisdom that comes with age has also taught me when to say enough. There was a time when I would carry in my pack a days worth of snacks, water, lots of ammo, shooting mat, tools and who knows how many other things. All this for a quick couple hour hike around the steep Rocky Mountains that tower over the valley I call home, the Scout motto was never lost on me. Perhaps it was experience that assuaged the contents of my backpack, maybe it was the tired back and legs that carried all my gear that convinced me to lighten up. But like it always does, it seems that technology has snuck in and played a big part in lightening the load. Good gear tends to be heavy, light good gear tends to be expensive, today I want to discuss how I have applied all this to my backcountry recreating.
Many of you may remember that for quite some time I carried a US Optics ER-25 scope, it was a spectacular optic. It carried almost every option I could have dreamed up when I first got into this business, and it was tougher than I could have ever imagined. US Optics scopes are famous for their robust construction, and they stand up to abuse that would make a safe queen owner toss their lunch. Hardly a gimmick, I can attest that my USO took several spills, many of which I thought for sure would end up costing me money, a trip back to the factory, and some serious downtime. But to my surprise and delight, my scope never lost zero, or required re calibration. Even falling onto concrete mounted to a twenty pound rifle landing on the scope itself wasn’t enough to damage the scope beyond a few dings.
With experience like that, countless trips into the wild, constantly dialing and working the scope, you might imagine my discomposure when I first saw and lusted over US Optics new line of scopes. The B series of scopes have what I would consider smooth and more modern lines, I know that some people don’t care about looks, but I am a sucker for performance when it meets precision and beauty. When I first got my hands on one, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Clean and bright were the images I saw through the glass, and the always ample selection of reticles leaves no excuse to even the pickiest of reticle snobs. Simple and strong turrets, with improved features like locks, and a quick tooless rezero for the elevation only increased my desire to run these scopes through the paces of my alpine shooting adventures. But one of the significant improvements of the B series of scope was the weight. The robustness of US Optics scopes has always translated into significant weight, something I was okay with because I knew it going in. The B 25 weighs six ounces less than my old ER 25, yet boasts all these improvements. The scope may feel light because I’m used to something heavier, but it sure felt like a bonus to me.
Giving up weight isn’t a bad thing, as long as you don’t loose the benefits of strength and durability. Which the B25 certainly seems to have retained. I still wouldn’t say I am anywhere near having a lightweight rig, but it still goes with me everywhere. Reducing the weight certainly helps, but having what some might call excessive scope can pay huge dividends in these mountains. Glassing a nice buck from a mile away usually requires a spotting scope, and a good one too. And while I wouldn’t compare a riflescope to a good spotter, I don’t have to worry about carrying them both.
The B25 is very clear, regardless of magnification I found my eye was quite comfortable focusing on my target, and the parallax adjustment made both downrange and reticle very clean. Any scope looses much of its brightness as you zoom in, but even at dusk I had no problem seeing and holding perfectly on very distant deer. It was also very handy in picking out Marmots from their hides in and around the boulders.
The new EREK 2 elevation turret is one of my favorite features of the scopes. The turret has a lock ring that you simply pull up on, and it engages the turret keeping it from being rotated. I like the idea a lot more than the pull-up/push-down turrets, it seems like a much stronger design, and less likely to be damaged or messed with. The turret lock is also used when re-zeroing the scope (see video below). The EREK 2 turret has a tool-less zeroing feature that allows you with your bare hands to quickly reset your scope’s zero, I found this feature incredibly useful. On any given day, my density altitude can vary from 4000 ft up to 11,000 ft depending on atmospheric conditions. With drastic changes like that, its nice to be able to quickly adjust my zero, without needing to break out my tool bag. The windage turret also locks, it is much simpler, and of the push pull design. I have no problem with that since I rarely dial wind, due to its fickle and switchy nature.
With so many options today, there is literally something for everybody. The new lighter weight of the B25 is a great excuse to re-scope my rifle, as I have become quite accustomed to having more scope than some would deem needed. I think there is plenty of room for larger tactical style optics in the hunting realm, obviously they will only appeal to those willing to carry it. I for one have seen the value of these scopes, and the advantage they give me.
I hit the field with the B25 in earnest, after some range time which consisted of a couple rifles chambered in 308win, 300wm, and also a big one chambered in 408 Cheytac. I figured if the big calibers didn’t hurt the B25, then surely my SR A1 Covert wouldn’t do it any harm. Most of my shooting was using my little Short Action Customs 223 Remington barrrel, but I also shot 6.5CM, 308win, and 338LM with it. Again, the quick re-zeroing of the turrets made these transitions very easy. The high magnification of the scope was also very handy when trying to shoot tiny groups on paper, something I am not very good at, so I avoid it whenever possible. It also proved valuable when shooting at distances beyond what most routine shots are taken at, I managed to shoot an 18 inchish group at 1133yds with my little 223. Through the clear 25X I could see my trace coming down on the target, and the impacts and voids left by my bullets. Switching from one target to another I dialed back and forth, the audible clicks were also crisp, allowing me to count them even if I wasn’t looking up at the turret. I also noticed the magnification ring was not as stiff as many other scopes I have used, I don’t think a cattail would be needed on these scopes but for serious competition.
Shooting with this scope felt like a chat with an old friend, everything where it was and as it should be. Dope lined up meticulously where I expected it to, and nothing ever surprised me. I found it difficult to find a downside to the B25. Of course for a scope mounted to a mountain rifle such as mine, you could always wish for something lighter, or more compact. But I fear until new manufacturing and materials become available, it will be hard to make them much lighter, or smaller. But I am sure that when it happens, companies like US Optics will be the first to bring them to market.