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The Original Silver Bullet
Rifle Magazine
November - December 2004
Volume 36, Number 6
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 216
On the cover...
The new Nosler Custom Rifle features a Leupold 3.5-10X VX-III scope and is chambered for the .300 WSM. Mule deer photo by Donald M. Jones.
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Product Tests

Burris Signature Select 3-10x 40mm Riflescope


Whether it was the dull, matte-black finish or the gaping, king-sized objective lens housing, I’m not sure, but there was something about the new Signature Select variable from Burris that made it appear much bulkier and heavier than it turned out to be. Even when mounted on a rifle like Remington’s beefy Model 700 Varminter with its 24-inch bull barrel, it looks like an awful lot of scope. To my surprise, however, a ruler revealed that it’s only 13 inches long and, according to an electronic scale, weighs just 17 ounces.

Aiding the portly illusion are the slightly bulbous power and parallax adjustment rings with their deep-cut relief grooves. Then too, the adjustment knob covers are an inch in diameter and jut away from the scope’s tube .5 inch. The knobs themselves, by the way, are slotted as usual, but their rims are knurled as well, making them easy to turn manually.

If there’s anything worth criticizing about the new Signature’s optics, it certainly escaped my notice. That yawning, 2 inch wide objective lens not only gave a clear, detailed view of the target but, even under unexpectedly overcast conditions, sucked in every bit of available light.

Just to make sure my imagination wasn’t kidding me, it seemed a bonny idea to run a slightly different kind of comparative test this time by pitting the scope’s optics against those of a binocular - not just any binocular but a Bausch & Lomb 8x42mm Elite, one of the better binoculars around.

A Burris target, one of those light tan jobs decorated with reddish-orange diamonds, circles and squares of various sizes printed against a one-inch grid background, was taped to a target stand 100 yards away. Both the glasses and the Model 700 Varminter were supported by solid rests. The scope’s power ring was set on 8x and its ocular lens carefully refocused on the target - just to be sure. So was the 8x42 B&L.

Through the binocular, the various colored squares, diamonds and circles stood out clearly, not just in the center of the lenses but out at their periphery as well. There was no hint of distortion as the different designs were viewed against the very outside edges of the binocular’s field - mute testimony to the quality of its lens systems. The one-inch grid was also visible - but just. Those tiny, .25-inch crosses marking the centers of some of the diamonds and circles were not to be seen: proof, if any was needed, that everything, even Bausch & Lomb binoculars, have their limits.

Setting the binocular aside, the Signature variable was brought into play. Peering beyond the 100-yard line, it was obvious the scope’s depth of field wasn’t as great as the Elite’s, even when the latter was focused sharply at 100 yards. Other than that, however, there was little to fault about the scope’s performance. All the target’s designs showed up clearly. Here too, that one-inch grid was barely perceptible. None of the different designs gave any hint of distortion when viewed through the outer edges of the scope’s field either. Not surprisingly, the scope wasn’t able to pick out any of those .25-inch center crosses that had hidden so successfully from the binocular.

Elevation and windage adjustments were easy to make while sighting in the rifle. Not only were the clicks audible, but also each movement of a knob could be felt as well as seen from behind the scope. The knobs’ rims are angled so that direction arrows and adjustment markings are plainly visible from the rear and sides as well as from above.

Color transmission through both scope and binocular was spot-on. So was the clarity of detail. While some of these tests were being conducted out in the field, a large, dark cloud system moved in and blotted out the sun for more than an hour. Surrounding light dulled; shadows weakened and contrast blurred. Target designs still showed up clearly through both scope and binocular.

At the range, squaring the target proved almost routine. Fire three rounds; crank on 10 clicks of elevation; fire three more rounds; add 10 clicks right windage; three more rounds, 10 clicks down; another three rounds, 10 clicks left and a final three rounds - right on top of the first group fired.

The test scope wasn’t fitted with the Burris Posi-Lok, although 3-10x 40mm variables can be ordered so equipped. A movable tube, housing the internal lenses that respond to elevation and windage adjustments, is held in place by spring tension. The Posi-Lok consists of a threaded steel post that can be tightened and loosened from the outside so it can be brought to bear against that movable inner tube, anchoring it once it has been adjusted to the shooter’s taste. The Posi-Lok’s assistance prevents the sight setting from shifting and is especially beneficial when a scope is mounted on a heavy-recoiling rifle or handgun.

Trajectory-compensating reticles have become all the rage lately. Like a lot of other crotchety old hands, I tend to regard most of them as gimmicks, something for advertisers to wax lyrical over but not worth much in the field. From where I sit, most of them seem to obscure the view, and any value they might offer depends strictly on the shooter’s ability to judge range accurately - and if he can do that, he has no need for any high-tech reticle.

Although still dubious about such reticles on big game rifles, my attitude toward them is softening a bit where varmint shooting is concerned. When popping away at prairie dogs, for instance, distances tend to stretch somewhat, but as a rule, shooters have plenty of time to adopt rock-steady positions and take good, long looks at the yardage between the rifle muzzle and those smallish targets way out there. Not only do most varmint hunters become pretty fair judges of range - all that practice helps - but they also tend to depend on flat-shooting, fast-stepping cartridges - high-speed .22s and 6mms, for example - that have lots of reach and don’t demand much hold-over, even when some of those little rodents seem to be in the next county. For that kind of work - and those kinds of shooters - these newfangled reticles may prove to be of some value.

The Ballistic Plex reticle adorning the test scope’s objective lens consists of the usual crosshairs reinforced by four partial bars, each slightly tapered and each covering about two-thirds or more of its crosshair. The lower, vertical crosshair is adorned with three very short, horizontal bars that represent 200, 300 and 400 yards. The tip of the vertical post jutting up from the bottom of the lens marks 500 yards.

According to an accompanying table, if a chap were shooting, say, a .223 Remington featuring 55-grain bullets launched at 3,240 fps - and if he zeroed the scope so the center of the crosshairs and the bullets’ flight paths coincided at 100 yards - when he put the 200-yard horizontal bar on a target at 200 yards, he’s dead on. Were a prairie dog standing out at 300 yards and the 300-yard bar were placed against the little critter’s middle, the bullet would strike an inch high at that range. Had that furry target been out at 400 yards and the 400-yard bar held halfway up its body, the bullet would land 2 inches below the aiming point.

According to the Burris instructional booklet, that’s the theory behind the Ballistic Plex reticle. They recommend a series of targets be fired at 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 yards to find out precisely where a given barrel and its bullets are hitting when shifting from one horizontal bar to the next. Sounds like good advice.

Anyone in the market for a high-magnification variable scope won’t regret time spent checking over the new Signature Select models. Made in the U.S.A., they’re sturdy, blessed with first-class optics, are easily adjustable, well-made, nicely finished and backed by the Burris Forever Warranty: If one of these scopes is ever found to have defects in materials or workmanship, Burris will repair it at no charge. A company has to have a lot of confidence in its products to make a promise like that. So do I. - Al Miller

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