I love a good riflescope, one of the great things about having so many guns is getting riflescopes to go with them. The challenging optics market continues to push for the perfect scope, the one that has everything. Despite their best efforts, there are just too many eyes to please which leaves consumers to pick and choose the features that they find most useful. I say most useful, but there is also an associated cost with all these features. It is not uncommon to spend two to three times the cost of a rifle on the scope that goes with it. So there is a great deal of settling for when it comes to general consumers, for example choosing scopes in the 1000-1500 dollar range with similar features to a scope that costs twice that much.
I find myself lucky to live and work in a world that can help justify some of the best equipment available. And being a bit of a scope junkie, one place I enjoy some of the finest products is on the glass that sits on my rifles. I have used many of the best brands, but today as you might have guessed from the title we are looking at my latest purchase from US Optics.
The Foundation 17X
The Foundation series of riflescopes is US Optics premier line of US made sights. I’ve had several US Optics scopes over the years, last year was my first dip into the Foundation series with my Foundation 25X. And after running that scope hard for over a year now, swapping it between multiple rifles, and packing it all over the Rocky Mountains from here to nearly Canada. It has hit the top of my list, always keeping zero, and precise adjustments have kept me always on target. I’ve used it hunting everything from antelope on the plains of Wyoming, to the dark bears of Montana’s Kootenai Forest, and the elusive elk of the Uinta Mountains.
I’ve also been running 5-25’s for some years now, and I wanted to try something different. Particularly because I rarely use them on maximum power for anything other than inspecting potential targets, so the next obvious choice for me was the Foundation 17X.
The FDN17x uses the same 34mm tube as the other Foundation scopes, and at its heart is the ER3K turret above the erector. The third generation of the EREK system allows the erector to be adjusted with a center screw to the rifles zero, without moving the turret itself from its zero. This allows full turret rotation, and it also keeps all turret movement in the up direction from its stop. Unless of course I’m lost and barmy, in which case someone will be along to correct me in a few seconds.
The objective lens on the FDN17x is a modest 50mm, slightly smaller than its bigger sibling. The windage is controlled with a capped US #1 windage knob, and it stays capped for the most part as I rarely dial any wind once I have a zero. Another standard feature of the Foundation series is the illumination, using a simple and single button to power up and select brightness settings. I can count on my fingers the times I’ve really needed illumination, but I can also tell you I never would have made those shots without it. Everybody has red illumination, so last time I ordered my FDN25X I selected green illumination. And this time around just to be different, I chose the blue illumination. I’ve yet to decide which of the three colors I like the best, but its nice to be given the choice. Other improvements of the Foundation line is a shorter throw on the magnification ring, where one-hundred-eighty degrees of rotation takes you from minimum to maximum magnification.
Another great option I added on to both of my Foundation scopes was the internal bubble level. It is cunningly placed in the eyepiece just out of the way enough that you need to look for it to see it. From the shooting position you can simply adjust the focus of your eye and see the bubble and its markings to ensure your rifle is level without ever breaking your eye from the target in the scope.
Perhaps one of my favorite options with the Foundation series is the reticle choices, and I usually choose the JVCR. It is a Christmas tree style reticle, with just enough going on to not distract my brain from doing its thing. Subtensions as small as .1 MRAD are part of the reticle, but much more prevalent are the .2 and .5 subtensions.
The JVCR like most modern reticles gives the user a superior ability to spot misses and correct for them. The FDN17X and its siblings are first focal plane scopes, which I prefer over the alternative. The reticle always reads true regardless of the magnification setting, which allows you to easily measure and correct for a miss. Whether you dial or hold for that miss depends entirely on your preference, depending on the size of the correction I will often do either. Good reticles like the JVCR allow you to do exactly that without getting so much information in front of your eye that you can’t focus, or worse yet you lose your impact in the noise around the reticle.
Before mounting the scope to an actual rifle, I ran it through a few scope tracking tests to double check turret values and repeatability.
I mounted the FDN17X into one of my 34mm scope-mounts, and leveled everything up. Bubble levels aren’t perfect, but they certainly can give you a very close to level mark. I carefully torqued down the scope rings checking the internal bubble level on the scope to see that it matched the bubble on the scope-mount, and triple checked them both against another level.
Then it was time to get it mounted up on a rifle, or a series of rifles better said. This scope was likely going to be one of my switch-around scopes, jumping from one rifle to another (I go through a lot of rifles). The first rifle I mounted the scope to was a Ruger RPR 6.5 Creedmoor, a great little rifle to wring out this scope and ensure it functions properly. Using the provided tools, I adjusted the ER3K knob to zero using my bore-sighting method. And after firing a few shots to confirm, I reset the zero according to impacts. Aside from this very convenient method, there are other things to like about the ER3K turret. I love the firm stop at zero, unlike the mushy stops from cheaper scopes achieved by shims, this thing stops on a dime. The large size of the knob gives you a very precise grip, and as you turn the turret to zero it stops hard. The turret has twelve MRAD per rotation, which for most of my rifles will take them out to their usable limits.
Today I was only able to take this little Ruger out to nine-hundred and fifty-yards, plenty far for sure, but not even into the second rotation of the FDN17X. As I am accustomed, I made corrections using the JVCR reticle, and using it to measure target sizes.
The clarity and brightness of this scope is superb, watching leaves flutter on the distant ridge made wind estimating more simple. Even at nine-hundred and fifty-yards picking out the soil rolling downhill from my misses was visible, as was the occasional snow flurry floating between my target and I.
Another day brought another rifle, the FDN17X was destined to end up on one of my MDRX rifles. This one has just received the 6.5 Creedmoor conversion kit in it, with a twenty-inch barrel and the new Blk Lbl Bipod twenty-inch handguard installed. The beautiful Tungsten Cerakote of this scope didn’t exactly match the black of the rifle, but I’m okay with that.
I quickly reset the zero on the ER3K turret using the Allen wrenches, and in no time I was ready to go. The 6.5CM MDRX is not quite as accurate as the RPR was, but still plenty accurate for many purposes. In the snowy and cold desert of the Great basin, I picked out a small white rock across a long draw. It was five-hundred and fifty yards according to my rangefinder, so after consulting my drop chart for this rifle I dialed 3.7 MRAD elevation and began evaluating the cold wind. My estimates put my wind-hold right at .6 MRAD, which is real convenient to hold with the JVCR. To me there are few things more satisfying than first round hits, and watching that first round pulverize the rock into a bright dust-cloud was exactly that. I spent an entire afternoon picking out little targets at varying distances out to seven-hundred forty-five and nine-hundred yards. I find the offset two-tenths sub tensions of the JVCR very handy and quick to make sense, this is particularly handy when you shoot in wide open spaces and mountains where the wind switches direction faster than a politician.
Am I wrong?
As I said in the beginning, its hard to make a perfect scope that fits everyone’s needs. But I’ve found that for my purposes, these Foundation scopes seem to fit me perfectly. I don’t know if that means US Optics just nailed it, or if I’m past my prime and simply content with what I’m used to. The ease of use with the ER3K elevation turret, the clear and bright clean images through the glass, and no need for an external anti-cant level make this scope very user friendly. And though I haven’t abused this one just yet other than smacking it into a few rocks, I have no doubt it will be as robust as the other USO scopes that I have abused thoroughly.
This scope is already lined up to go on several other rifles, I look forward to a bright future shooting with it. The moderate magnification and size will fit perfectly into a well used portion of my gun collection, and more than likely it will see some killing come this fall.